The June 15 suggestion to Seoul on removing sanctions on North Korea within the Korean Peninsula, three days after the Kim-Trump Summit in Singapore, in my article on The 21st Century [Note 1] has joyfully seen a rosy light of dawn.
On Oct 11, Reuters reported that “South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said on Wednesday (Oct 10) that the sanctions, imposed against Pyongyang … were under review…”
Kang’s remarks, according to Reuters, “… prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to say South Korea would need U.S. approval to relieve sanctions. ‘They won’t do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval,’ Trump told reporters, when asked about her comments….” [Note 2]
Beijing’s Global Times immediately provided a support to Seoul by emphasizing “Seoul’s diplomatic independence key to peninsula peace” on the same day Oct 11. “… If South Korea continues to follow the US, peace on the peninsula will rest entirely in the hands of the US.” [Note 3]
In response to Beijing’s view, Breitbart published an article next day (Oct 12) warning that “Chinese state media jumped in and encouraged Seoul to lift unilateral sanctions as quickly as possible in a gesture of fellowship with Pyongyang and defiance toward Washington …… Nothing would encourage Beijing more than opening a rift, no matter how small, between Washington and Seoul.” [Note 4]
This Breitbart analyst has wisely got the main point: the China-Korea relation in the coming decades is one of the major factors reshaping the world order in general and East Asia in particular, as the China-US relation is going to hollow out.
The Oct 4 ‘Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Administration’s Policy Toward China’ [Note 5] is the third and the most clear-cut confirmation of Washington’s stance toward China, after the White House National Security Strategy in Dec 2017 and the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy Jan 2018.
While the possibility of a new Cold War, as most pundits are pondering, may emerge in one way or the other, the chance that they antagonize against each other to the extent of a combat in, say, the South China Sea, is low for at least two reasons.
Firstly, the two gigantic economies have been so interwoven that neither side can afford any sudden and disastrous losses on the manufacturing and financial fronts.
Secondly, both sides can technically and easily shot down each other’s satellites by launching land-to-space rockets, and also totally destroy the inter-continental optic fiber cables under the oceans for the purpose of disabling the opponent’s military and intelligence efficiency, thus bringing the world unimaginable chaos.
Small scale proxy wars may take place but both China and the US will exercise diligent self-control to prevent uncontrollable situations from happening.
During this new and probably long-lasting unfriendly US-China relationship era, trade disputes would be on-and-off in place, American corporations’ direct investments in China would shrink, many manufacturing orders from the US firms would go to other developing countries, cultural exchange ranging from sports to music between them would pull back, fewer Chinese students would be admitted by the American universities and colleges, joint efforts to deal with global issues such as extreme weather would be rare, political spats at the various supranational and multinational organizations would be more frequent, competition in technological advancement would sharpen, criticisms of each other’s domestic affairs and policies would escalate in terms of quality and quantity ……
In short, the common area between China and the US to stand together will be reduced here and there. They are going to hollow out their relation.
By the time Washington has succeeded in adding the new term of trade — the Clause 32 of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which imposes certain restriction on the trading partners’ capability of entering into deal with ‘non-market country’ [Note 6] — into the agreement with their ‘allies’ such as Britain and Australia, the competition between Eurasia and Trans-Atlantic will be more salient and further hollow out the US-China relation since many Eurasian states would be unlikely to accept this insulting clause.
Korea, for at least two considerations, has a significant role to play during this era. One is that, North Korea which is endowed with superb natural and human resources has a great potential to become a new powerful growth engine in the east end of Eurasia, provided the economic co-operation between the two Koreas could materialize sooner rather than later.
A closer tie between China and Korea will definitely generate formidable synergy not just in economic but also technological pioneering, which will be indispensible to the overall growth of Eurasia.
Another one is that a permanent peace between the two Koreas plus a prosperous China-Korea collaboration may encourage Japan to reconsider its role.
Normalizing Japan as an ordinary state with ordinary national defense capability by amending its constitution, as what I argued for in 2015 [Note 7], is the only path to allow the Japanese on their way toward a normal statehood, thus being able to be truly independent of the United States.
If and only if so, Tokyo could have its own foreign policy. Japan deserves the right and should be welcome by all to join the emerging International Society of peaceful state actors.
Abe’s recent enthusiastic drive to visit China and request to meet Kim Jong-un are evidences that the joint China-Korea efforts have been altering Japan’s political currents.
The first step toward this is Seoul’s determination to defend Korea’s sovereignty by denying Trump’s claim that Seoul needs Washington’s approval to do something for all the Korean people residing on the Korean Peninsula.
By Keith K C Hui
The 21st Century
The 21st Century, Keith K C Hui, “Seoul should seek special exemption from UN sanctions to normalize N-S trades on the Korean Peninsula”, June 15, 2018.
Seoul’s diplomatic independence key to peninsula peace
Chinese media urges Seoul to lift sanctions on North Korea
2018 Oct 4
Foreign Policy In Focus, Keith KC Hui, “Abe’s WWII Statement and Self-Defense Bill boost Japan-China Relations”, Aug 25, 2015.