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Talks could end N. Korean crisis peacefully

July 1, 1993

Unlike the case with Iraq where the multi-lateralism was mostly ignored by the United States and Great Britain, upcoming six-way talks might settle North Korea’s nuclear crisis peacefully.

The two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia will hold six-way talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons development Aug. 27-29, in Bejing, China. Participating countries recently have engaged in bilateral or trilateral contacts to adjust their schedules and agendas for the six-party dialogue.

President George W. Bush billed North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, as an “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address Jan. 30, 2002. On Oct. 17, 2002, the U.S. State Department reported North Korea admitted it had been pursuing a secret nuclear arms development program, which violated a 1994 agreement, under which North Korea promised not to continue nuclear development. On July 31, the Ministry of Russian Foreign Affairs announced North Korea had agreed to the six-way talks.

Historically, China, Russia, Japan and America have sought relations with the two Koreas for their own advantage in northeast Asia, leading to the misfortune of the Korean peninsula. The United States ultimately stationed troops in South Korea and introduced American democracy and a market economy to win the power struggle. Imperialism, Japanese militarism, anti-communism, Pax Americanism and economic interests have disturbed the Korean peninsula because of its geo-political importance.

The first part of this series on the North Korean nuclear crisis focuses on the history and geo-political significance of the northeast Asian region.

Geopolitical significance

“Every disaster had happened regardless of Korean will,” said Chae-Hoon Lee, the producer of the special documentary Never-ending War on MBC channel in South Korea. “We must have observed that over 1 million people who were not guilty at all had been killed during the Korean War. The outbreak, ruthless bomb attacks, barbarian manslaughters, cohered truce line and ceaseless abhorrence between the two Koreas occurred beyond our intention.” Lee produced a series of documentaries to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1953 cease-fire.

The Korean War broke out in 1950 after the North Korean invasion, within the international context of democracy versus communism. During post-war days, the United States and the Soviet Union, the two strongest countries at the time, occupied both the northern and southern part of the Korean peninsula.

“The German line [the Berlin Wall] divided by the United States and the Soviet Union was a penalty,” said Sung-Yoon Kim, the head of Policy Institute at Dankook University in South Korea.

In Europe, this division played a role in preventing Germany from regaining strong military force. Kim said: “Unlike the German case, the Korean peninsula was separated for the purpose of the strategical analysis between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, even though Korea was a victim of World War II. Over the Cold War, a truce line resulted.”

Korean peninsula: A bridgehead

Historically, it was proven that the Korean peninsula played a substantial role in far east Asia. Han-Me encyclopedia explained that in the late 19th century there was a similar tension among China, Russia, Japan, America and Britain to dominate the Korean peninsula. Russia was seeking domination in far east Asia.

Russia, having struggled with Britain in Afghanistan, was trying to advance southward to obtain an ice-free port. Britain occupied Geo-moon Island in the south of the Korean peninsula illegally in April 1885. The encyclopedia clarified: “China intervened in a dispute between the two countries because the Chosun Dynasty (which ruled both South and North Korea at the time) had Chinese-Korean relationship with a tribute system. Japan and America aligned themselves with the British or remained indifferent in accordance with their own profit. Britain retreated after an agreement in Afghanistan with Russia Aug. 4, 1885. The Chosun Dynasty was neglected throughout the process.”

Japan also had long had an ambition to become a leader in Asia. From 1592 to 1598, Japan invaded Korea twice. Japan, unified by Doyotomi Hidaeyosi, wanted a distraction to dissolve his feudal lords’ dissatisfaction and to advance for the continent. According to the Doosan Encyclopedia, Japan gave Korea up on account of continuous resistance by camouflaged troops and naval forces. Before World War II, Japan invaded and colonized the Korean peninsula as a bridgehead to penetrate the continent.

Dynamic relationships

According to Ho-Yeon Cho, an investigator at Johns Hopkins University and a writer in the NEWSMAKER weekly magazine in Korea: “The United States occupied the southern part of the Korean peninsula and participated in the Korean War advocating anti-communism. The United States introduced American democracy and market economy into South Korea. America supported the Korean economy to position South Korea as the frontmost line of anti-communism. After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, America influenced South Korea to take the initiative in Northeast Asia.”

Cho saw two major goals for U.S. strategy on the Korean peninsula. One goal was to secure political, economical and military advantages from northeast Asia through democracy with pax-Americanism and a market economy. The other goal was to restrain the expansion of China and the Soviet Union.

China, Russia and Japan had similar aims. Sung-Kyu Han, a Korean student studying in Japan, said Japan should have followed the U.S. strategy for Asia because it was a vanquished nation.

“Japan should have focused on its economic rehabilitation,” Han said. “Japan benefited from being a supply dump for the U.S. troops during the Korean War. It has not abandoned its goal to be the country of powerful military forces.”

In this century, Japan has shown signs of rearmament by dispatching forces to the Gulf War and Afghanistan.

“North Korea was an ideological mental and physical buffer zone for China, which obstructed that American forces and ideology entered China,” said investigator Ho-Yeon Cho. “North Korea was also a good excuse for the Chinese competition with the Soviet Union so as to be a boss among communistic countries.”

The strife had been brought about by China in its eagerness to be a leader in Asia, similar to its glory days. In 1948, the People’s Republic of China was built with the assistance of the Soviet Union. North Korea took advantage of this tension between China and the Soviet Union.

The North Korean encyclopedia section at the Web site (www.joins.com) of Joongang Newspaper, a major publication in South Korea, reported: “North Korea often alternated its preference for China and the Soviet Union according to its political and military necessities. North Korea had tried to keep relatively stable relationships with them representing an independent line in the 1970s.”

The Soviet Union was a political, military and economic supporter of North Korea., although China did commit troops during the war. However, it was largely at the behest of the Soviet Union that North Korea encroached on South Korea to expand communism. North Korea sheltered communism from American democracy until the East-West détente of President Richard M. Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. “Russia made efforts to conform to the newly shifted system,” said Korean-Japan Newspaper on Oct. 31, 1998. However, “Russia began to concentrate on recovering from its financial crisis with the help of Japan and America after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union.”

Today, China is the most effective outside influence on North Korea, with a heavy aid burden (some of which is paid for) of food and energy supplies.

The next part in this series will focus on the history and deployment of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

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