Isolation and Military Force against DPRK will not Solve Korean Crisis


US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson paid a visit to Japan on March 16th. After meeting with his Japanese counterparts, he expressed that the United States needed a “different approach” to North Korea’s escalating nuclear threat; although he did not specify anything further about the nature of the approach.  As the New York Times quoted from the joint press briefing of Mr. Tillerson and Japan’s foreign minister Mr. Fumio Kishida , the US Secretary of the State said: “The diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea (DPRK) to a point of denuclearization have failed.” According to him, the US had spent $1.3 billion to assist the DPRK in abandoning its nuclear program. 

 After his brief visit to Japan, Tillerson met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Western media reported that besides several bilateral issues, the tension on the Korean peninsula was also discussed. While Tillerson was in Japan, the US President tweeted, “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!” It is apparent that Mr. Tillerson will seek Chinese consent regarding a ‘different approach’. On the other hand, China has proposed a dual suspension formula to reduce the tension and solve the Korean crisis gradually. At a media conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi explained the formula, saying:  “As a first step, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) may suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the suspension of large-scale U.S.-Republic of Korea (South Korea) military exercises.” Since the US has not released any further details on the ‘different approach’ and expressed war rhetoric, one can assume that the country is seeking Chinese consent for a military assault inside North Korea to topple the Kim Jong Un regime. 

From a historical perspective, the modern day Korean crisis erupted as the outcome of the Second World War. Japanese forces occupied the Korean peninsula and Russian and US forces snatched the land from defeated Japan and divided the Korean land into two parts on the basis of 38 parallel lines and two political ideologies, North and South, communism and capitalism, the Asian ‘Berlin wall’. 

One was pro-Soviet and the other is pro-US. Later in the early ’50’s, they engaged in an unavoidable war with direct support from Soviet Russia, China, and the US-led west.  The consequence of the war was 1.2 million deaths, an armistice treaty and a return to the 38 parallel lines. In the last 60 years of truce between the DPRK and South Korea, we have seen how an ethnic Korean population has been divided by two different ideologies and socio-political economic systems. By adjusting with the oddity of the division line- which was drawn by the superpowers, North Korea and South Korea both have developed their respective ways of life, although there is a diversity of perspectives to see in the region. One can also argue that the region has been highly militarized with sophisticated modern weapons during the period of 60 years of truce. 

The new US President, Donald Trump, has been very vocal against China and its policies since his early election campaign days. Under the Trump Administration, the US will seek to enhance and continue geopolitical pressure on China to contain her proposed globalization of promoting One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI) and maritime silk-Route.  On the other hand, China has enhanced her diplomacy with Asian countries by funding infrastructural projects to the tune of billions of dollars.

The US- China tension in South China Sea is also increasing. Both the US and China have been deploying military hardware for potential confrontation over maritime boundary disputes. To add more tension to the Sino-US confrontation in the region, recently, the South Korean president was ousted by both the parliament and the court.  Now, it is apparent that the US has been losing its grip on the South Korean political establishment. But who will fill the leadership gap of South Korea? The main opposition party, the Democratic Party, which is an alliance of the Germany-based Progressive Alliance, can play a crucial role in forming the future government. But the party doesn’t enjoy full support from the US yet since the Progressive Alliance rejected several of Trumps’ policy such as the wall between the US-Mexico border and travel ban for six Muslim countries.

So, many analysts believe that the US has been seeking to keep the China containment policy active in the region by inciting another Korean War. Japan, one of the key regional player, consents to this in favor of the US. 

According to media reports, the US-led West and regional allies -Japan and South Korea - are very worried about North Korean nuclear war capacity and missile developments. As we saw in the second US invasion of Iraq under the false pretext of saving the world from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, again the Western media has been creating another false pretext from the same playbook to prepare the ground for toppling the DPRK regime. 

Currently, relations between China and the DPRK are not going well, but they are not hostile to each other. China joined the UN in imposing several sanctions against North Korea on different occasions of her weapon tests. On the other hand, the DPRK has enhanced and diversified her trade with Russia, Mongolia, Australia, and other countries. Although the DPRK and China have some strategic differences, they will act as a single entity in confronting the potential America-Japan-South Korea joint threat. 

To avoid a future catastrophe that could severely harm Chinese globalization and domestic security, China will try to prevent US actions against North Korea. It is historically proven that the modern day DPRK is a very important geostrategic position where China has fostered a hard line of defense against Western capitalism by supporting the Kim dynasty. But in the 21st century, when the US is a dying hegemon and has been losing its grip on South Korea, and while China is promoting its own idea of globalization, does China need such strategic defense that the DPRK has been giving China for years on Korean peninsula? 

Additionally, Russia, a country that supported North Korea, also raised concern over the DPRK’s nuclear tests. By studying Chinese and Russian recent reactions particularly in North Korea, one can easily come to the conclusion that these countries are not enjoying fruitful diplomatic relations under the present leadership of Kim Jong Un and, at the same time, they are worried about North Korea’s nuclear and missile capacity. A country with nuclear weapon and ballistic missiles is hard to contain diplomatically because those weapons give a country a power status that can be used to push a country’s understanding of a situation at the negotiation table. 

Russia and China both know that North Korea could appear as a threat to their respective geopolitical strategies on the Korean peninsula. But North Korea cannot be a bigger threat than the US in the foreseeable future because North Korea has not invaded any country yet.

For regional security and safety and from a geostrategic perspective, China and Russia should try to incorporate North  Korea into their respective development projects like BRI, the maritime silk route, or Eurasian Economic Union. Such inclusion would improve the DPRK’s confidence and force her to take responsibility in global but collective and multi-polar development.   Isolating N. Korea from the rest of the world will not serve the objective of creating a secure world.  Isolation only gives North Korea the rationality to make more devastating weapons for self-defense.  It is suggested that China, Russia and North Korea can sign a Korean peninsula defense pact where the concerned parties will enhance trilateral defense mechanisms and draw red lines of national interests for peace and security in the region.