Mr Trump, tear down this (Korean) wall
It's time to put away the military hysteria with North Korea and encourage economic connections through diplomacy
The BRICS summit in Xiamen once again showed the real action is concentrated on “RC” – the Russia-China strategic partnership, which is evolving its own multipolar foreign policy.
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping lead the BRICS and the SCO. Xi leads the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Putin the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). Putin leads the New Middle East – the “4+1” tested in the Syrian battlefield (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq plus Hezbollah), now with Turkey, with China supporting from behind. Putin is immensely respected by Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Pakistan.
Vladivostok is a little over 300km away from the DPRK’s Punggye-ri missile test site. So at the Eastern Economic Forum, just concluded in Vladivostok, Putin naturally led, not only alongside Xi but also Japan’s Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, all bent on carefully maneuvering the Trump administration into rationality.
In the larger geopolitical chessboard, those US “nuclear capabilities” threats voiced by Trump and his generals are not just aimed at Pyongyang. The real, long-term, ultimate target is “RC”. THAAD missile radars are able – at least in theory – to “see” up to 3,000km into “RC” territory. For “RC”, this is an absolute no-no.
The Korean Peninsula high drama is a dense crossover of top level diplomatic warfare and accompanying infowar. The War Party spread out across the Beltway essentially proposes a nuclear exchange and does not rule out, as Trump just said, a military attack (“certainly could happen”), with absolutely horrendous consequences, as in millions of dead Koreans, North and South.
Trump and US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, refuse to talk. Moreover, the War Party is very much aware that if the DPRK is not demonized as a threat, the entire rationale for the industrial-military complex to be present in Japan and South Korea disappears.
In parallel, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory Siegfried Hecker, who’s been to North Korea’s nuclear facilities, has stated, unequivocally, that Kim Jong-un “is determined to develop an effective deterrent to keep the United States out.” As long as US military bases are surrounding the DPRK there’s no way Pyongyang’s nuclear program will be frozen. This is an unchangeable fact on the ground.
Instead of a “military attack” or nuclear war, what “RC” proposes are essentially 5+1 talks (North Korea, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, plus the US) on neutral grounds. That’s called diplomacy.
In Vladivostok, Putin went out of his way to emphasize common sense; defuse military hysteria; and warn that stepping beyond sanctions would be an “invitation to the graveyard.” Instead, he proposed business deals.
What about a wall of connectivity?
What happened in Vladivostok is really ground breaking; Moscow and Seoul essentially agreed on a trilateral trade platform, involving Pyongyang, to ultimately invest in connectivity between the whole Korean peninsula and the Russian Far East.
Moon proposed to Moscow to build no less than “nine bridges” of cooperation; “Nine bridges mean the bridges of gas, railway, the Northern Sea Route, shipbuilding, the creation of working groups, agriculture and other types of cooperation.”
Crucially, Moon added that Russia and the two Koreas trilateral would invest on joint projects in the Russian Far East. Moon knows all too well that “the development of the Far East will promote the prosperity of our two countries and will also help change North Korea and create the basis for the implementation of the trilateral agreements.”
Adding to the entente, both Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha stressed the “strategic cooperation” with “RC”.
Geoconomics must complement geopolitics; thus Moscow has proposed to Tokyo building a bridge between both nations. As much as that would physically link Japan to Eurasia – and the trade/investment interpolation of BRI and the EAEU – that complements the plan to link a Trans-Korea Railway to the Trans-Siberian, as previously reported.
Putin, once again, reminded everyone how, “we could deliver Russian pipeline gas to Korea and integrate the power lines and railway systems of Russia, the Republic of Korea and North Korea. The implementation of these initiatives will be not only economically beneficial, but will also help build up trust and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
Moscow’s strategy, as much as Beijing’s, is connectivity; the only way to integrate Pyongyang is to keep it involved in economic cooperation; the Trans-Korean-Trans-Siberian connection, pipelines, development of North Korean ports.
The DPRK, with a delegation participating at the forum, very much wants to be part of the whole deal. But not yet. According to North Korean Minister for External Economic Affairs Kim Yong Jae, “We are not opposed to the trilateral cooperation [with Russia and South Korea], but this is not an appropriate situation for this to be implemented.” That implies the priority is the 5+1 negotiation table.
Still, the crucial point is that both Seoul and Pyongyang went to Vladivostok, and talked to Moscow. Washington refuses to talk. What’s not reported is that the key question – the armistice that did not end the Korean War – was certainly also breached by Putin and the Koreans.
All these concerted moves are part of a larger strategy; the “RC” drive aimed at Eurasia connectivity. It’s as if Putin – and Xi – are remixing history and turning the end of the Cold War on its head. The North/South divide is the last remnant of the Cold War. Via trade and connectivity, it’s time to tear down this Korean wall.