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Strategic diplomacy required in rapidly changing Northeast Asia

Strategic diplomacy required in rapidly changing Northeast Asia

Posted January. 01, 2014 00:32,   


Dark clouds that covered the world a century ago are scudding toward Northeast Asia. Prosperity, the development of technology and globalization that were just budding thanks to the Industrial Revolution all stopped after the bang of two gunshots in Sarajevo in 1914. The decline of the British Empire, the rapid rise and military buildup of Germany, a late comer in industrial development, and the upsurge of nationalism exploded at once with the outbreak of World War I. Europe restored peace only after fighting another world war.

Now, the world concerns about Northeast Asia, which doesn`t seem to have learned from the history of Europe, as the power-to-power confrontations in the region increase without any device to resolve conflicts. Comparing today’s situation to what happened a century ago when the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Empire of Austria-Hungary and his wife led to the First World War cannot be just neglected as a view of some pessimists. Niall Ferguson, a historian and professor of Harvard University, has warned that today “nuclearized North Korea” may play the role of Serbia who pulled the trigger for the First World War in 1914.

Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at the summit in Beijing last June that they would make the West Sea a “sea of peaceful cooperation and friendship.” However, China proclaimed its air defense identification zone without any consultation with Korea in less than a half year from the meeting. The diplomacy of power, in which the strong coerces the weak to submission by using its power, may cause more serious territorial disputes in the region this year.

Japan’s blatant and regressive attempt to become a “nation who can go into war” is only growing. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a rightwing nationalist, will strengthen the military power by more actively pursuing for its right to collective self-defense. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who enters the third year after his enthronement has already threatened South Korea by saying that “war is not something that is made after notice.” The possibility of North Korea’s provocation for internal purposes such as alleviating domestic discontent cannot be ruled out.

If efforts for economic integration, such as the Korea-China free trade agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), speed up, Northeast Asia may turn into a region of cooperation that exceeds Europe. Korea should learn from the experience of Belgium, a small but strong nation in Europe whose land is as small as Gyeongsang Province but has become a host nation of the EU headquarters not to be invaded by surrounding powers.

Given the harsh reality in Northeast Asia, sticking to domestic political struggles is meaningless. The ruling and opposition parties should join hands and develop strategies for the nation’s future based on strong alliance with the U.S. and close strategic cooperative partnership with China. That would be the only way to ease concerns of the Korean people. Strengthening oneself and keeping a balance among powerful nations was and is the way to go for Korea.