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South Korea shifts towards China

South Korea imposes limits on THAAD, rejects formal alliance with US and Japan, begins defence dialogue with China

Alexander Mercouris

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The big news in Asia this week is not US President Trump’s grand but ultimately empty visit to China.  It is the quiet steps China and South Korea have begun to take towards each other.

In a recent article for The Duran I discussed how Russian foreign policy seemed to be edging towards a solution to the Korean crisis involving direct Chinese – Russian brokered talks between North and South Korea which would not involve the US.

I also referred to the longstanding Russian projects to build railway lines and gas pipelines across North Korea to South Korea, providing South Korea via North Korea and Russia with a land bridge to Europe, whilst bringing the two Koreas together and binding them closer both economically and politically to the two Great Eurasian Powers ie. Russia and China.

I also speculated that these Russian plans – which I said had unquestionably been worked out in collaboration with China – might also involve the two Koreas coming together in some form of confederation with each other, this being an idea first mooted by North Korean President Kim Il-sung in the 1970s, and floated from time to time since.

In my article I summed this all up as follow

It is not after all as if the contours of a possible Korean settlement are difficult to see: a non-aggression pact between the two Koreas, a withdrawal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula, and an agreement by North Korea that it give up its weapons in return for formal security guarantees from the Great Powers (in this case this means the two Eurasian Great Powers, Russia and China).

There is no logical reason why any of this should require the agreement of the US, and if the two Koreas were to agree to this the US would not be in a position to prevent it.

The South Koreans are not ready for this message at the moment, but the Russians – who privately probably already think all these things – may calculate that if they bide their time and wait for the right moment the South Koreans will become more willing to listen as the true extent of US intransigence becomes clear.

That after all is how the big breakthrough came in the Syrian crisis, with Russia and Turkey agreeing a deal with each other after the fall of the Jihadi stronghold in Aleppo, which did not involve the US.

We are some way from this point in the Korean crisis. The North Koreans will need a great deal of persuasion before they are prepared to talk to the South Koreans whose government they consider to be a US puppet.  The South Koreans will need a great deal of persuasion before they are willing to break with the US and are ready to act without the prior agreement of the US.

However given the strong interests all three parties have in a settlement, if the US is not careful it may not be so long before it comes to that.

In that case we could see Russian diplomats in Pyongyang and Seoul, and North Korea’s and South Korea’s leaders – Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in – in Moscow, with the US completely cut out of the talks – brokered by China and the Russia – for a comprehensive settlement of the Korean crisis, which would be going ahead without them.

It goes without saying that China will be involved every step of the way.  Indeed the Russians are undoubtedly informing the Chinese in advance about every step they are taking, just as Iran was kept informed and was involved in every step the Russians and the Turks took together towards bringing the Syrian crisis to an end, and has been made a co-chair of the Astana talks.

China’s involvement and agreement is in fact essential.  Ultimately, because of the history of mistrust between the two Koreas, China as well as Russia will almost certainly have to act as a co-signatory and guarantor of whatever agreement the two Koreas finally agree with each other.  Almost certainly that will require China and Russia giving formal security guarantees not just to North Korea but probably to South Korea as well

It turns that whilst the Russians have been talking to the North Koreans – as I discussed at length in my article – the Chinese have been talking to the South Koreans, and the proposals they have been making to the South Koreans have been exactly in line with what I predicted in my article.

Moreover these discussions are bearing fruit.  Here is how Global Times describes their outcome

Trump’s visit to South Korea comes as Beijing decides to mend ties with Seoul. On October 30, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha ruled out the possibility of deploying additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense batteries, the South joining US-led missile defense system, and entering into a formal trilateral military alliance with Washington and Tokyo.

Kang’s strong comments are rare for the traditional diplomat whose language usually comes with nuance and strategic ambiguity to secure greater diplomatic maneuverability and leverage, highlighting South Korean President Moon Jae-in‘s firm will to improve relations with China…..

On October 14, Moon had called for military restraint on all sides, stating that he would “block war by all means” and that military action against North Korea should be decided only by South Koreans and “not by anyone else.”…….

……South Korea’s and China’s recent decision to resume military dialogue comes at an opportune time. On October 24, defense ministers of the two countries held their first one-on-one meeting in two years. Working-level talks and chief-of-staff dialogue mechanism severed since January 2016 and June 2013, respectively, are also scheduled to resume at a later time. Such military channels provide a niche to improve the quality of bilateral relationship, and can add both content and substance to their existing “strategic and cooperative partnership.”

As to China’s ultimate objectives in its negotiations with South Korea, here is how the article in Global Times describes them

In this context, South Korea is in a unique position to become a strategic fulcrum for China, at least under the Trump and Moon administration. It is crucial that both countries utilize this historical moment to build up strategic and military substance, so that any future possible security frictions do not erode their hard-won friendship.

Professor Yan Xuetong of Tsinghua University once argued that South Korea could and should be a natural security ally of China. Although Yan’s vision is unlikely to materialize in the near to medium future, the two countries at least have sufficient collective economic, diplomatic, and military power to leverage peace in East Asia and provide global public goods for the region in the form of traditional and non-traditional security. Such strategic objectives are beneficial for both China which seeks to become a major power with Chinese characteristics and South Korea which needs to boost its diplomacy.

(bold italics added)

Compare these words with my description in my article of Russia’s ultimate objective in the Korean Peninsula

If the two Koreas – with an aggregate population of almost 80 million people, a highly trained and well-educated population, abundant natural resources, and advanced industries (including some in North Korea) – were ever to come together in that way the result would be an economic colossus, potentially rivalling Japan as the second biggest economy after China in East Asia.

For the Russians – with their good relations with both Koreas – it is a tantalising prospect, especially if they can use the prospect of better economic and political links between themselves and the two Koreas – and between the two Koreas with each other – to distance South Korea from the US, and to draw the two Koreas into closer relations and perhaps in time into full integration with the Eurasian powers (ie. with China and Russia).

(bold italics added)

The Chinese and Russian objectives are in all respects identical, conclusively confirming that the two Eurasian Great Powers are acting in concert towards the same objective,.

Clearly there is an agreed division of labour between them, with the Chinese talking to the South Koreans over whom they have substantial economic leverage (see this article by Reuters), and with the Russians talking to the North Koreans, with whom – unlike the Chinese – they have traditionally always had good relations.

What are the prospects of these Chinese-Russian moves?

A trip I took to South Korea in 2004 made me starkly aware of the overwhelming cultural influence in South Korea of China, compared to which the US presence in South Korea seemed ephemeral.

It also brought home to me the extent of the South Korean people’s pride in the achievements of the Korean nation – achievements which are both very great and little known in the West – and of the deep suspicion most of them still have of Japan, which was Korea’s colonial master from 1910 to 1945.

In that context a key development of the last two weeks – touched on by Global Times – is that the South Korean government has emphatically ruled out any idea of South Korea joining a trilateral alliance of the US, South Korea and Japan directed in theory against the threat from North Korea but in reality pitched also against the Eurasian Powers: China and Russia.

Lastly my 2004 trip made me vividly aware of the longing of the Korean people – South as well as North – for peace and independence, and for at least some form of reunification of the Korean nation, divided against its wishes at the end of the Second World War.

In light of all this the possibility of an eventual South Korean realignment with South Korea agreeing to become part of some sort of regional structure bringing together however loosely the two Koreas and China and Russia does not seem to me altogether farfetched.

Whether Kim Jong-un and his officials would be interested in such an arrangement is another matter.  Doubtless the Russians are working hard to try to find out, and in time they will no doubt point out to Kim Jong-un its very obvious advantages to him

Such an arrangement would obviously distance South Korea from the US. However it would not mean that South Korea would have to become an enemy of the US.

The Chinese and the Russians know that that is something to which the South Koreans would not agree, and from their point of view it would not be desirable anyway.

However South Korea – unlike say Germany or Turkey – is not a member of a tightly structured US-led alliance like NATO in Europe.  A shift by South Korea away from its current close security relationship with the US would not therefore require a formal break with the US.  That makes a realignment easier to achieve.

As the article in Global Times shows, the Chinese and the Russians – being the highly practical and realistic people that they are – are not proposing such a realignment to Seoul at the moment.

Rather they are pressing Seoul and Pyongyang to begin direct talks with each other.  At the back of their minds they will hope that when such talks begin the idea of a realignment will emerge naturally out of them.

The prospects are in fact better now than they have ever been.

A rapprochement bringing together the two Koreas and China and Russia would have been inconceivable during the Cold War when Kim Il-sung first proposed it because of the bitter ideological divisions of that period.

In the early 2000s, when it was again mooted, the US was still very much the hyper-power with an effective veto over any move by South Korea and with the Chinese and the Russians having little to offer.

By contrast today the huge growth of Chinese power and the strong recovery of Russia mean that for the first time a rapprochement between the two Koreas, China and Russia looks both attractive and viable.

Whether the negotiations currently underway between the Chinese and the South Koreans and the North Koreans and the Russians eventually lead to that outcome remains to be seen.

However already Chinese diplomacy has achieved a dramatic success, with South Korea’s agreement to limit THAAD deployments on the Korean Peninsula, the South Koreans ruling out the idea of a tripartite alliance between themselves the US and Japan, and with the South Koreans also agreeing to re-start defence talks with China.

My guess is that a rapprochement bringing together the two Koreas and realigning them closer to China and Russia is both fully viable and much closer than many realise.

Indeed its logic is so strong that if or rather when the two Koreas finally begin to talk to each other I expect it to come to the forefront quickly.

The challenge is to get those talks started.

The Russians have made a strong pitch to the North Koreans, whilst the Chinese breakthrough with the South Koreans suggests that the start of direct talks between Seoul and Pyongyang may not be as far off as most people think.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Labour MP split is a cheap and final ploy to derail BREXIT (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 179.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss a small group of UK Labour MPs decision to quit the party and sit as Independent MPs in the house of commons.

Their excuse for leaving Labour was directed at leader Jeremy Corbyn for presiding over an “institutionally anti-Semitic” party. The real reason they are leaving Labour is because they are staunch remain MPs and are hoping to derail Brexit.

The seven Labour MPs quitting the party to become ‘The Independent Group’, are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

RT reports that Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree took to the stage first, to claim that she could not stay in the party any more because it had become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, a prominent ‘People’s Vote’ advocate appealed to all MPs, not just Labour, to join their group, as the current parties are part of the problem, not the solution.

He argued that “It is time we dumped this country’s old fashioned politics.” Umunna claimed the UK needed a political party “fit for the hear and now” and the “first step in leaving the tribal politics behind.”

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Via RT

Twitter has been rocked by the sudden departure of seven Labour MPs to form their own Independent Group, with party supporters feverishly debating whether the move is better for the party, or a wake-up call to Jeremy Corbyn.

Former shadow cabinet minister Chuka Umunna along with MPs Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey have all jumped ship in the biggest Labour Party split since 1981, when the so-called “gang of four” left to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

In a press conference, Umunna stated that the established parties “cannot be the change because they have become the problem” arguing that it is “time we dumped this country’s old-fashioned politics.”

Jewish MP Luciana Berger said she was “embarrassed and ashamed” at what the Labour Party had become and criticized her former party for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist.”

“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other,” she added.

Reaction to the news online has been a mixture of shock and dismay, to outright derision. Some Labour supporters were quick to delight in the departures, suggesting the party will be stronger without detractors undermining it from within.

Others though said it was time for Jeremy Corbyn to take the criticism seriously.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users commented on Young Labour’s somewhat barbed response to the situation.

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