DPRK still continues moratorium

Originally published in Argumenti.ru

Inter-Korean military meeting
Once upon a time on the demarcation line, there was non-armed military rendezvous between the north and the south. (File Photo)

By Alexander Khramchikhin, Deputy Director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis (IPVA)

1.

The military-political situation on the Korean peninsula has largely returned to the situation before the start of negotiations between top leaders of the US and the DPRK in 2018.

The DPRK has so far made a number of concessions to the opposite side, closing a nuclear testing site and a missile testing site, stopping testing of nuclear weapons, MRBMs and ICBMs, as well as canceling large-scale exercises near the border with south Korea.

In response, Washington and Seoul only reduced the scale of US-south Korea joint exercises. (More precisely, these exercises were converted into the format of joint 'command post exercises' with  electronic simulation.)

In addition, it has become obvious that Seoul is not able to pursue any independent policy in relations with Pyongyang, for it must coordinate all its steps with Washington.

Naturally, from the middle of last year, the DPRK leadership began to lessen interest in further negotiations.

At the end of last year, the DPRK stated that it no longer considered itself bound by a moratorium on testing nuclear weapons, MRBMs and ICBMs, although it was open to dialogue with Washington and Seoul if they follow practical proposals implying mutual rather than unilateral (on the part of the DPRK) concessions.

2.

3.

The north Korean deserters' balloon-throwing of propaganda materials from the south Korean side to the north Korean side in June of this year was by no means the first action of this kind.

And, of course, it could not cause any real damage to the leadership of the DPRK.

However, Pyongyang used this action to completely sever contacts with Seoul.

Such a reaction at first glance seems inadequate, but in the spring of 2018, the both sides of Korea  officially made mutual commitments to end any hostile actions against each other.

Thus, in this case, Seoul violated its own obligations.

It is possible that the defectors did not inform the official Seoul of their actions, acting on the instructions of Washington or even on their own initiative.

However, even if it might be so, the fact that the south Korean side violated the mutual agreements never ceases to be a fact.

4.

At the same time, Kim Jong Un "officially postponed" the plan of military operations against the south Korean side.

This means that Pyongyang still acts quite rationally and is not going to start a war with anyone.

Moreover, half a year ago, having renounced de jure the aforementioned nuclear-missile moratorium, the DPRK, nevertheless, still de facto observes it.

Apparently, Pyongyang is well aware that Trump is in any case a much lesser evil for the DPRK than Biden, so it does not want to create additional problems for the American president less than six months before the election.

5.

For Trump, his talks with Kim Jong Un and the overall reduction in tension between the US and the DPRK are, in fact, the only success of his foreign policy during the entire period of his presidency.

In the period remaining before the election, Trump is categorically not interested in deteriorating the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

His recent statement that the US should no longer play the role of "policeman of the world" was  certainly quite sincere.

If Trump manages to win the election this November, he will almost certainly make another attempt at reconciliation with Pyongyang.

If Biden wins, relations between Washington and Pyongyang will deteriorate dramatically, completely returning to the previous state.

However, the probability of war will as before remain low. (With Trump, this probability is zero.)

If the US had a real opportunity to overthrow the DPRK regime by force, it would have done so many years or even decades before.

But a war with the DPRK, even under conditions of non-use of nuclear weapons and non-intervention by China, would inevitably result in unacceptable human and material losses of the US.

6.

The Korean problem is interesting, because the concept of "world community" in relation to it is essentially identical to the "Six" - both Koreas, the US, China, Russia, and Japan.

All other countries have neither serious interest in the problem, nor, all the more so, any opportunity of influence on the solution.

Moreover, even one of the "Six" countries, Japan, is largely "superfluous"  here.

It has an interest in solving the problem, but it has no real leverage to achieve it.

Russia and south Korea for themselves have reduced their own influence on the situation.

As aforementioned, Seoul is not ready to pursue a policy independent from Washington, although Pyongyang would very much like to develop separate contacts with Seoul.

Moscow, preoccupied with the problems of relations with the West, the Middle East and the post-Soviet space, in fact, voluntarily "handed over" the north Korean problem to Beijing, although Pyongyang would very much like to see Moscow as a counterweight to Beijing.

This position is a gross mistake of Russian foreign policy. (Especially outrageous is the voting in the UNSC for sanctions against the DPRK in conditions when such completely illegal sanctions are imposed on Russia itself.)

7.

As a result, the DPRK may become a bargaining chip between the US and the PRC.

The DPRK, of course, does not want to be a subject of bargaining. It has been burthened by dependence on China. (That is why it needs so much separate relations with south Korea and Russia.)

At the same time, Trump is pursuing and, obviously, will pursue a tougher policy towards China and a softer one towards the DPRK if he wins.

Biden's policy, if he wins, will probably be the exact opposite.

As a result, there arise a huge number of nuances and uncertainties. It does not make sense to discuss them at the moment.

(Argumenti.ru, July 6, 2020)

* The original title: DPRK may become bargaining chip between US and PRC

* Main translator: Yandex AI translating machine

* Please understand the 2nd paragraph omitted by KR

* Paragraph numbering and line changing by KR

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