By Wang Peng Source: APD News Published: 2018-12-28
The Korean Peninsula has taken the world’s centre stage in 2018. In the first half of the year, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has broken its long-term silence, frequently appearing on international occasions, carrying out reforms at home and seeking reconciliation with its neighbours. Its relations with South Korea, China, Japan, the United States, and Russia have been improved. However, the DPRK nuclear issue remains unresolved.
Some say the economic cooperation is key to the peace process on the Peninsula and the development of Northeast Asia, but I don’t think it is accurate. I believe the core of solving the nuclear issue lies in the strategies. In other words, it’s about politics and security.
The saying of “the development of Northeast Asia lies in economic cooperation” is a dependent variable, rather than an independent variable of the nuclear issue. The independent variable is always the political and strategic factors, which causes fundamental changes of the issue.
Without a clear understanding of the key relationship between variables and the endogenous mechanism and dynamics of the Peninsula Issue, policy makers and international commentators may mistake the economic ties as the causation; however, it is just the result of strategic interaction and political bargains.
Fully understanding the essential of the Peninsula issue, analysts may find pragmatic solutions to the problem.
Pyongyang should be aware of the role of great powers on this issue. Now, some believe the rise of the DPRK is shifting the power balance in Northeast Asia. This is also inaccurate. Apparently, the increasing nuclear capability of the DPRK has truly left itself a larger room to pursue its own strategic goals. However, the ultimate players are still and always the great powers, either in the global or regional order.
The only chance for secondary powers, such as the militarily nuclearized DPRK, to break the iron law of “great power management”, as Hedley Bull discovered in his masterpiece The Anarchical Society (1977), is to create suspicion and competition between great powers. In other words, the disunity of great powers may be a gospel for the secondary countries, but it substantially puts sand in the wheels of effective global governance.
In this regard, as the Korean Peninsula comes to the crossroads again now, both China and the USA, as well as Russia perhaps, should take their responsibilities as “leading powers” of the region and the issue. The term “leading” here not only refers to their unparalleled material and military strengths in the Asia-Pacific region and even the world, but also means to their moral obligation and institutional roles in both global governance, regional peacekeeping and their promise of “pursuing a denuclearized Peninsula”.
Wang Peng is an associate research fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.