The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), has issued a strongly worded statement condemning the US as more American officials and media personalities assign credit to Donald Trump personally and the US as a whole for bringing about the rapidly moving peace process in Korea which is set to result in a treaty being signed between Pyongyang and Seoul to finally end the Korean War/Fatherland: Liberation War.
Clearly, while DPRK officials continue to embrace peace and reconciliation with the South, many in Pyongyang are predictably furious at the US for seeking to use the peace process as an element in America’s soft power propaganda war which seeks to portray Donald Trump’s multiple threats issued against North Korea throughout 2017 as the primary cause for the new detente in Korea. The premature and inappropriate efforts among some in the US to nominate Donald Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize have doubtlessly added to the DPRK’s frustrations in the face of a United States that is entering a peace process not from a position of good will but from a rhetorical position of arrogance and presumptuousness.
According to the DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
“Recently, the U.S. is misleading the public opinion, arguing as if the DPRK’s clarification of its intention for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula made through the Panmunjom Declaration adopted at the historic north-south summit is the result of so-called sanctions and pressure.
At the same time, it is making open remarks that it would not ease the sanctions and pressure until the DPRK gives up its nuclear weapons completely and also moving to aggravate the situation on the Korean peninsula by deploying strategic assets on the peninsula and increasing its attempt of taking up “human rights” issue against the DPRK.
The U.S. is deliberately provoking the DPRK at the time when the situation on the Korean peninsula is moving toward peace and reconciliation thanks to the historic north-south summit and the Panmunjom Declaration. This act cannot be construed otherwise than a dangerous attempt to ruin the hardly-won atmosphere of dialogue and bring the situation back to square one.
It would not be conducive to addressing the issue if the U.S. miscalculates the peace-loving intention of the DPRK as a sign of “weakness” and continues to pursue its pressure and military threats against the latter”.
The statement serves a poignant reminder that while relations between the two Korean states are at an all time high and while good will throughout Asia, including and especially in China and Russia have helped to shape and guide the trans-Korean reconciliation process, a hawkish, undiplomatic and uncompromising US could still retard the peace process by making unreasonable demands on the DPRK, continuing to sanction the DPRK in spite of de-nuclearisation and refusing to take into serious consideration the DPRK’s own security concerns regarding the continued US weaponisation of the Korean peninsula.
While Washington has already got much of what it has admittedly desired from the DPRK including a commitment to unconditional de-nuclearisation, a cessation of all nuclear and missile tests during the negotiating period, the dismantling of the DPRK’s nuclear testing facilities and the recent release of US prisoners held by the DPRK authorities, if the US continues to make further excessive demands of North Korea while moving the proverbial goal posts throughout the course of the negotiations, Pyongyang has made it clear that it is not negotiating from a position of weakness and will therefore act accordingly if its own interests are threatened.
On the contrary, as North Korea’s nuclear weapons remain ready in the event of a dangerous provocation and as the DPRK’s economy continues to grow, the fact of the matter is that unlike Libya in 2003, the DPRK is negotiating from a position of strength. This position of internal strength is further bolstered by support from both China and Russia, the wider world and perhaps most importantly a friendly Moon Jae-in administration that would not want its US ally to spoil the fraternal atmosphere which is flowering between the two Korean states.
Furthermore, when it comes to diplomatic considerations, the DPRK which is interested in open its economic and cultural doors to fellow Asian nations, feels diplomatically insulted by a US government keen on essentially perverting the pan-Asian characteristics from the peace process and turning it into a geopolitical victory lap for the US. While Asian leaders maintain appropriate sensitives towards both Korean states, for the US, there is a danger of neo-colonial chauvinism soiling an otherwise effective and productive peace process.
While the Asia of the mid 20th century was rife with anti-colonial struggle, foreign invasion and civil wars which largely stemmed from colonial legacies, direct neo-colonial provocations or a combination of all of the above as was the case in the disputes between Malaysia and Indonesia and also Singapore and Malaysia in the 1960s, today’s Asia is vastly different.
Taken collectively, today’s Asia is the world’s centre for both innovation and production. While European living standards fall, Middle East living standards (with the big exception of Turkey) stagnate and African living standards continued to be pulled in a variety of directions, Asia is a place where on the whole, people are now more prosperous, healthy, secure and optimistic than at any time in recent memory. Thus, it is fitting that in such an age, the leaders of an artificially divided Korea should embrace each other at a time when both Korean states have a lot to be optimistic about in spite of lingering uncertainties.
Today, it would be largely unthinkable for the states of ASEAN to fight among each other as they did during the middle of the 20th century. Likewise, Japan and China are making progress on economic reconciliation while the prospect for war remains entirely remote if not non-extant. In South Asia, Pakistan is escaping the shadow of US dominance and is asserting itself as a productive member of the multiploar world whose economic future will be positively shaped by One Belt–One Road via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. While India’s ruling BJP remains at odds with a pan-Asian attitude, the ongoing meetings between Indian Premier Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping gives at least a glimmer of hope that both India and China will be able to embrace positive elements of a relationship whose strains derive from the ‘divide and rule’ legacy of British colonial rule over South Asia. Russia’s healthy partnership with China is complimented by a Eurasian Russia’s ability to embrace new partners in places like The Philippines, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey in western Eurasia, while retaining good relations with Vietnam and also India.
Throughout Asia, it can safely be said that the present is better than the recent past and the long term future will be far better than the lingering 19th and 20th century legacies of colonial humiliation. As Asia embraces the future, it has also learned to gradually embrace itself. The symbolism of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in holding one another’s hands during a musical/multimedia performance at the end of their summit is emblematic of an entire continent that is learning to hold hands and walk together into a brighter future.
It must be said that if not for China’s overwhelmingly positive influence as an economic and military superpower, much of what the world has seen would not be possible. While there are still some Asian states that refuse to embrace the natural position of China as the leading force in the wider Asian space, it is difficult to image a divided Korea taking the steps towards peace and unity that Kim and Moon have taken without China acting as a champion and de-facto guarantor of peace.
The divisions between left and right, political parties and nationalist suspicion are all parts of the colonial legacy that Asia must continue working to reject. China’s example as a country that is willing to work constructively with all partners in spite of any partisan lines, is a testament to the fact that Asian politicians can, will and ought to even more so, consider themselves as members of a wider Asian family first with all other considerations coming second.
If the US remained more influential in Asia than China, one could be sure that the spirit of anti-colonial harmony across Asia, including in Korea would not be flourishing. It is because of China’s leadership which respects the characteristics of each individual Asian nation that peace is beginning to take shape. Of course, in the specific case of Korea, the fact that both Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un have intensified their relations with Beijing, is a testament to China’s quiet strength against western voices that howl with discontent whenever Asian leaders act in a sovereign manner. Ultimately, China’s superpower status is paving the way for Asia to reject the machinations of those far from the heart of the Asian experience and instead become masters of their own destinies.
If the US does not tone down both its insulting rhetoric and its excessive demands, North Korea could prolong the negotiation process in order to re-assert its geopolitical position in favour of peace derived from an internal position of confidence. Such a prolonging of the otherwise rapidly moving peace process would be detrimental to the region. Only restraint from the US can prevent such a development from occurring.