While the tensions over North Korea appear to be dying down, the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has thrown the weight of the EU’s most influential member behind the join Sino-Russian plan which calls for total de-escalation on both sides of the Korea conflict.
Russia and China continue back a plan, first articulated by Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi, the Foreign Ministers of Russia and China, respectively, in July of this year. The plan calls for North Korea to cease its missile tests and covert weapons programme and also calls for the US to halt all deliveries of the THAAD missile systems to South Korea. Additionally, Russia and China have called on the US, South Korea and Japan to cease its military drills in and around the Korean peninsula.
Thus far, the US has de-facto rejected the plan. The THAAD systems keep coming and America and South Korea’s missile tests continued to occur long after the joint statement by China and Russia.
Recently however, the peace minded South Korean President Moon Jae-in has stated that he seeks to avoid war at any costs.
This was followed by a carefully worded olive branch to the United States by North Korea which affirmed North Korea’s position as one which is ultimately defensive.
Now, Germany appears to be the most influential member of NATO to come out in favour of the Sino-Russian peace plan.
The German Foreign Minister stated the following during a phone call with Wang Yi,
“Germany appreciates the important role played by China in resolving the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula. Germany understands and supports China-proposed ‘double freeze’ initiative”.
While Germany has supported US actions in Libya, Ukraine and Syria, this would appear to be the first time that Germany has backed a significantly different proposal in respect of US military action since 2003 when the German government of Gerhard Schröder staunchly opposed George W. Bush’s Iraq war.
Germany’s outspoken position in favour of the Russian and Chinese solutions to the Korean crisis are likely motivated by a general ‘America fatigue’ that is setting in among the German political elite. Whether it be the anti-Russian US sanctions which are seen in Europe as crude attempts to force countries like Germany to purchase expensive US imported liquefied natural gas or Donald Trump’s admonition to EU NATO members to pay their fair share of fees to NATO, Germany is gradually establishing an independent voice that simply did not exist during the Obama years.
Seeing as Angela Merkel and her government are likely to remain in place after the forthcoming elections, a Germany that is increasingly ill at ease with the Trump administration is going to be a defining feature of trans-Atlantic relations for the foreseeable future.
At the same time, the business community in Germany has made increasingly strong statements in favour of continuing business dealings with Russia in spite of both US and Eu sanctions which are increasingly seen as bad for Germany’s powerful business community.
This is a further indication that the fall-out from the rapidly de-escalating Korea crisis has done far more damage to US prestige than it has done anything to change North Korea.