New security framework looms in East Asia
Published: May 30, 2018 12:03 AM

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

South Korean mediation was indispensable to the dramatic revival of the US-North Korea summit. Following this, South Korean President Moon Jae-in may travel to Singapore next month for a three-way summit with his US and North Korean counterparts.

Amid the fl ux on the crisis-ravaged Korean Peninsula, Seoul has played a vital role. By keeping communicating with Pyongyang and acknowledging North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's willingness to talk, it has built a bridge between the US and North Korea.

The key role of South Korea shows that Seoul and Pyongyang long to interact and the peninsula issue can be resolved with their joint eff orts. It seems another opportunity has emerged from the logjam between the US and North Korea.

The crisis on the peninsula is the legacy of the Cold War and hence the focus of the US' Asia-Pacific strategy. Because of North Korea, the US alliance with Japan and South Korea remains till today.

Given the alliance, it is hard to find a measure to peacefully resolve the peninsula issue. But the communication between Pyongyang and Seoul has shown another way.

To resolve the peninsula issue requires a holistic arrangement of regional security which South Korea and neighboring countries have common stakes, and it is also essential and urgent to them. This arrangement would allow North Korea not necessarily to depend on the US' concession.

A question lingers in the mind of the US - will it still dominate the future security framework? For other countries in the region, it will be about common security and development.

Hence, apart from the contacts among the US, North and South Korea, coordination among China, South Korea, Japan, North Korea and Russia should be increased. Such coordination can be multilateral or bilateral, no longer limited to the past Six-Party Talks.

As a major power in the region, China should play an active role in these communications and be farsighted in ramping up interaction with South Korea and Japan.

Currently, Asia is in the midst of a transformation of its security system. China's rise has broken the previous balance and regional order needs to be reorganized. This makes it possible for China to play a more responsible role as a major power in establishing new mechanisms or reforming the old ones.

China can enhance its influence by sharing economic dividends with countries in the periphery. But its political focus should shift to establishing new mechanisms, which can act as an assurance for countries in the region. Situation on the peninsula has provided China such an opportunity.

This is not to exclude Washington from the region, but by intensifying negotiations among Asian countries, explore the possibility of establishing a security mechanism that is dominated by Asian nations.

US strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski predicted that Washington's major challenges in Asia would be how to gradually step down from its dominant status and realize a peaceful transfer of power. But in reality, it would be difficult for the US to proactively work out such an arrangement. Even if Washington may have considered withdrawing from Asia, the country's proclivity for power politics cannot easily change.

In addition, Washington's withdrawal doesn't entirely depend on its own will, but on cooperation among Asian countries. The EU's experience suggests that major powers are key to regional integration.

Therefore, China is indispensable to lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. How to shelve bilateral disputes and coordinate with countries in the region for future arrangements is more important to China.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn Follow him on Twitter at @dinggangchina