Wednesday, April 17, 2024

EDITORIAL: Tensions rise on Korean Peninsula


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Tensions in the Korean Peninsula must be of concern to all of us even though it is on the other side of the world. So much so that uncharacteristically China, North Korea’s only ally, was forced to speak out.
China’s new President Xi Jinping, at an economic forum in Hainan Province, though not calling names, said “no one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains”.
In a not-so-veiled threat, he made it clear that while pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others. These are very strong words and are clearly meant to bring North Korea in line.
President Xi said that the international community and its collective scrutiny should act as a platform for common development rather than an “arena where gladiators fight each other”. This strong tone from China is rather refreshing and is meant to signal its frustration.
However, many people believe North Korea’s sabre-rattling is, indeed, meant to pressure the neighbours and the West to enter into a meaningful dialogue. There are some who feel the hasty sanctions by the United Nations have further complicated the equation and forced Pyongyang to talk of a full-fledged war in the region.
We believe that in order to find a point of return, a way must be found for a return to diplomacy and possibly a revival of the stalled six-party talks in order to open a new vista of dialogue and bring in China as a moderator.
Nonetheless, the point has to be made that the historical unpredictable nature of North Korea has kept serious players of international politics at bay; and it is incumbent upon President Kim Jong-un to spell out an agenda of reconciliation and coexistence.
Many analysts believe that if tension and unrest in the region are to be tamed for good, then there is no other option but to reach out to North Korea. The American military says it is ready for any offensive provocation but, at the same time, hoping it will not have to go over the brink.
China’s stated position is that issues with North Korea can be solved only through dialogue but in its recent statement says it is opposed to “any provocative words and actions from any party in the region” and would not allow troublemaking on its doorsteps.
China is between the devil and the deep here. It is fearful that any problems in North Korea would result in a flood of refugees on its doorstep and any attack by the United States could lead to a reunification of the Koreas under American influence on its borders.
There is too much to lose on the China side and it would quietly bring pressure to bear on North Korea to pull back from the brink to ease tensions. China has enormous influence on Pyongyang and for this reason we are hopeful that what we are seeing is mere fluff for global consumption.


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