The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un created an excitement to the world meeting South Korean President Moon Jae In on Friday but there was continuous tension before when the North Korean nuclear test had been happening. It’s a bold decision by any North Korean Leader, landing on South Korea, implanting monumental plant to peace- above all, and the steps to the peace. World leaders along with United Nations Secretary-General welcomed the initiative toward peace by two Korean leaders. We also welcome both leaders.
For quite days earlier the peninsula was fluctuated for nuclear testing and exercising. The wrangling between Donald Trump and Kim Jon Un also wavering through the air continuously. They were threatening each other to use the nuclear weapon that increasing the tension in the region. The summit on the village of “Panmunjom” is undoubtedly a milestone on this perspective. In the joint declaration, they announced to continue disarmament negotiation, bilateral co-operation, the peace process and to connect separated people of the Korean peninsula. By this time, international political analyst, geopolitical specialist, peace researchers are optimistic to the wind of peace over Korean Peninsula.
The historical perspective of Korean separation:
There is a historical perspective of Korean separation. The problem commenced in 1910 when Japan and Russia fought each other for taking control of the country. Emperor Sunjong was the last ‘united’ Korean leader and the last emperor in a dynasty stretching back 500 years. In 1926 imperial Japanese leader took full control of the Korean peninsula. When the Japanese empire was dismantled at the end of World War Two, Korea became victim to the Cold War. It was divided into two spheres of influence along the 38th parallel. The US army and the USSR army were positioned on South and North region consecutively. After the subjugation of Japan, the two parties delimited the region across the 38th degree parallel line. US patronized government established in South and USSR so to North Korea. In 1948 UN mandate election held in Korea. The anti-communist Syngman Rhee won the election in South and the pro-communist leader Kim Il Sung installed in North Korean portion. This led to the establishment of the Republic of Korea in South Korea, which was promptly followed by the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in North Korea. Gradually the division between 38th parallel lined deepened. The difference in policy and ideology between the occupying powers led to a polarization of politics and increased the tension and frustration. From 1948 until the start of the civil war on June 25, 1950, the armed forces of each side engaged in a series of bloody conflicts along the border. In 1950, these conflicts escalated dramatically when North Korean forces invaded South Korea, triggering the Korean War. The 3 years long (1950-1953) war caused the death of more than 3 million peoples.
Dream for one Korea
The wound of Cold War have healed, but the Korean Peninsula remained divided. The two Korea have been walking separately, even belligerently for 70 years. North Korea is still a tenebrous land to the world. The ‘Kim Dynasty’ has shown the world how to survive in such a situation. In the meantime, South Korea has gained excellent economic achievement. It’s ranking in regard of GDP is 13th where per capita income is more than 30 thousand USD. In regard of military position, it stands on 9th except for nuclear arsenal. Though such position, its geopolitical influence remained lower than Japan and China, maybe it’s the catalyst to concentrate on unification.
Looking back, Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Jong-il met at a summit meeting in 2000, the first conference held between leaders of the two States after the Korean War. The summit meeting was held from June 13 to 15, and at the end of the meeting, June 15th North-South Joint Declaration was adopted between the two Koreas. In the declaration, the two Koreas reached an agreement on five points:
- to settle the problem of independent reunification,
- to promote peaceful reunification,
- to solve humanitarian problems such as the issue of separated families,
- to encourage cooperation and exchange in their economy,
- And to have a dialogue between the North and South.
After the summit, however, talks between the two States stalled. Criticism of the policy intensified and Unification Minister Lim Dong-won lost a no-confidence vote on September 3, 2001. Returning from his meeting in Washington with newly elected President Bush, Kim Dae-Jung described his meeting as embarrassing while privately cursing President Bush and his hardline approach. This meeting negated any chance of a North Korean visit to South Korea.
According to a report by Korean Institute for National Unification, 58% of South Korean imparted to have unification. In 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greeted new year celebration to the South. On 02 January, South Korea officially invited North Korea to join winter Olympic Games.
And finally, the summit of two leaders of Korea in the border village of “Panmunjom” has blown the Wind of Peace!
A comparative analysis with German reunification:
On the context of wind of peace over Korean Peninsula and hope of unification, let’s first talk about the experience of another case- German unification, the divided nation came together in 1989. It was Germany, which crumbled after World War II. The communist regime took the position in Eastern Germany and US block in the West on the other hand. On the time of demising the power of Communist bloc, the two Germany had the chance to get unified. Like East Germany, North Korea has an economic deficiency but it was not an immediate challenge. And unlike East Germany, North Korea has a great support from economic giant China. Besides, North Korea has nuclear warfare.
The geopolitical game over Korean peninsula:
The geographical location of the Korean peninsula has a significant importance for regional and international actors of international relations. North Korea is adjacent to China and South Korea is the regional wing of US. The control over the South China Sea and its geopolitical and strategic landscape is dependent on geopolitics over the Korean peninsula. There are at least five geopolitical players in Korean peninsula- US, China, Russia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea. Each of them has very particular interest in the game over the Korean peninsula. For North Korea, it needs the security of not being intervened. Thus, it possesses the nuclear arsenal and wants US withdrawal from South Korea. It also needs to access to South Korean economic capabilities. On the other hand, South Korea and the US looks forward to deterring North Korea from nuclear proliferation and took the power of the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea and reduce Chinese influence. US-South Korea historical alliance has a goal checking the rise of any regional power could hamper economic well-being of South Korea and challenge US military base. US policy of containment is still working over there. And Japan is also an important player wants to use the peninsula as a buffer zone, a united Korea would worsen its safe zone. The wind of peace over Korean peninsula depends on the concession of those geopolitical players.
The context of denuclearization and peace process:
To discuss wind of peace over Korean Peninsula, we need to the contextual relevancy of denuclearization process of North Korea. There are several reasons for North Korean nuclear proliferation-
- The defensive security policy, North Korean Nuclear may be the cause of security dilemma for US-South Korean hostile policy towards it. To acquire peace over there, they need to manage North Korea that its security won’t be hampered.
- Creating options, parties need to create options for North Korea. Because it was isolated from the world for a long time. It needs to access, simultaneously the world needs to access to North Korea. And this process will reduce the asymmetric position of two Korea.
International powers along with regional powers have to ensure that the peninsula won’t be the apple of discord of their competition. Because the history of the peninsula leads to show such quarrelsome game of powers.
The Strategic game
The very imbalanced and unpredictable situation between North Korea and the United States of America arises a question in myself, actually its the question of all, why the both leaders are directing any drama serial which would make a sense merely and who the ultimate benefit snatcher is (is it someone from the both or any third Piercing player?).
As the third party, China is the name which comes very first to think of and be evaluated. Its mandatory to mention here that China is North Korea’s biggest trade partner and arguably has the most leverage on Kim Jong-un’s regime. . China’s support for North Korea dates back to the Korean War (1950–1953). China is the known mediator of any crisis in its region specially when it comes about Korea. Whenever the situation on the Korean Peninsula gets tense, calls ring out for China to mediate. China has also drawn its visible mark by the mediator between the US and North Korea. After North Korea’s latest missile launch in November 2017, China expressed “grave concern and opposition,” calling on North Korea to cease actions that have increased tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and ongoing missile launches have complicated its relationship with Beijing. The accusation of the South China Sea and to keep them under its control forces China to stop any threatened step of any country especially in its region. China needed a rapid action to be fruitfully forbade North Korea and its disaster works.
China has stressed many times that the core of the Korean Peninsula issue is about the contradiction between the DPRK and the U.S. As parties directly concerned, the DPRK and the U.S. should conduct dialogue sooner rather than later. To take the result under its credit Xi himself told Trump in a March 9 phone call that he “welcomed the prospect of dialogue between the United States and North Korea,” according to a White House statement
Despite those statements, China has cause to be concerned about the way the current round of diplomacy is unfolding. China is undoubtedly relieved that the threat of war over the North Korean nuclear issue has dropped markedly. However, the meetings and discussions that have reduced tensions have notably not included Beijing. Instead, the inter-Korean dialogue has led the way, with South Korea in close communication with the United States. In this scenario will China resume its role as the core external influence on the Korean economy, similar to the role of the United States over the past 60 years?. Its the question knocked at head immediately.
Here is why China is still a benefit snacther and the remote controller of the situation.
Chinese officials had been very quick to take credit for some of the outcomes of a historic summit between the US and North Korea.“It is fair to say that the relevant approach and initiative proposed by China and its endeavors… have played a positive and constructive role in getting the situation on the peninsula to where it is now.” Said a Chinese official after the summit has ended. China’s officials marked the summit a “success” and something China had long been “working toward.”And as a Chinese positive outcome, surprisingly, Trump announced that the US would stop holding military exercises with South Korea, a measure China first proposed to Washington one year ago, as the “freeze for freeze” initiative. China may benefit in other ways. Soon after the summit’s conclusion, Beijing called for lifting international sanctions on Pyongyang, a move that would give trade in China’s northeastern regions across the border from North Korea a needed boost. All the possible situations show China as the gainer and most importantly planner of the summit. Being the North Korea’s biggest trade partner China’s role in trade and investments in North Korea can’t be freaked out.
China is North Korea’s largest trade partner and China provides about half of all North Korean imports and received a quarter of its exports. By 2011 trade had increased to $5.6 billion (₩5.04 trillion). Trade with China represents 57% of North Korea’s imports and 42% of its exports. Chinese statistics for 2013 indicate that North Korean exports to China were nearly $3 billion, with imports of about $3.6 billion. Beijing continues to have maintained healthy economic ties with Pyongyang. Bilateral trade increased tenfold between 2000 and 2015, peaking in 2014 at $6.86 billion, according to figures from the Seoul-based Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
Though in 2017, the overall trade between the two countries for the year fell 10.5 percent compared to 2016, In December, China’s imports from North Korea slumped 81.6 percent from a year ago to $54.34 million, marking their lowest level in four years, according to Reuters records. Chinese exports to the reclusive nation fell 23.4 percent to $260 million in the same period.
China would lead in investing in North Korea after the nuclear disarmament. China has already led the country in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the past years. As North Korea’s largest trading partner and the regime’s primary backer, China has the most possibility and safety in investing in North Korea. According to experts, North Korea looks like a natural candidate for China’s Belt and Road initiative — a grand plan to invest hundreds of billions developing roads, ports, and railways from Asia to Africa. Infrastructure in most of North Korea is in a dilapidated state.
So, it’s very clear here that the third party is the most gainer than the two existing party.
Arman Hossain and Sharif Mustajib
student, Dept. of International Relations
University of Chittagong.