A test of tolerance over the Korean Peninsula

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, November 26, 2010
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After the recent artillery exchange on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea seems to be the only country that gained, but Pyongyang is drinking poison to curb its thirst. It is running head long down a road that leads to nowhere.

Is the Korean Peninsula heading toward a dangerous dead end?

Stability is a shared goal of all the countries involved. North Korea wishes to maintain a stable government; the South would like to see a stable border area.

It is in the interest of China to keep an uneventful situation on the Peninsula, and the US hopes to see its influence in Northeast Asia unchallenged. Japan and Russia hold attitudes similar to China's or the US'.

However, this shared goal is often interrupted by other interests, primarily, the pursuit of nuclear weapons by the North and its continuous provocation. In addition, the inconsistent policies of the US and South Korea toward Pyongyang also cause the North agitation, which in turn tends to overreact.

Strategic trust is almost zero among the players involved. The efforts China makes in promoting regional stability are often offset by US strategic intentions in the western Pacific. China's efforts also often get the cold shoulder by North Korea. The on again, off again, Six-Party talks best exemplify the difficulty.

The hard line approach of the US is unlikely to succeed on the Korean Peninsula. If it did succeed it would mean the failure of China's diplomacy and bring unbearable strategic risk to China. But it is equally impossible that China's moderate stance takes the lead, which suggests a much needed fundamental policy adjustment from the US, South Korea and Japan.

The stalemate will continue and test the tolerance of all the parties involved. But the way things stand now, South Korea will go on living under the shadow of the non-stop provocations of the North; while Pyongyang will continue suffering isolation and poverty, which is getting worse after each incident.

Among all the countries with a stake in the region, it looks like South Korea can and should take the initiative to adjust its policy toward the North. But, the question is, is it willing to do so?

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