7 February 2013, 21:13

The Korean peninsula: a step away from a war

The Korean peninsula: a step away from a war

China is trying to prevent the possibility of a war on the Korean peninsula. Beijing has expressed a serious concern regarding the recent threats of Pyongyang to «fulfill people's will» in taking more decisive steps than nuclear tests.

Pyongyang's anger was directed at South Korea and the USA. Meanwhile, China did not limit itself to simply calling upon the sides to stay calm and reserved. North Korea's unpredictability can damage the friendship between China and North Korea, China warns. China seeks to preserve its friendship with North Korea, but North Korea must act likewise. The popular English language newspaper «Global Times» reminded Pyongyang of that. Beijing uses that newspaper every time it plans to replace its diplomacy with tough political rhetoric. China must not be held hostage by North Korea’s extremist actions. A nuclear explosion would cost North Korea dearly. Those statements made by the Global Times are very much similar to the position of that wing in China's highest party leadership, which calls for tightening the policy towards Pyongyang. Beijing is no longer shaking its finger, but its fist, according to Konstantin Asmolov, an expert with the Institute of the Far East. Why is that?

"In the situation of the standoff between China and the USA, as well as acute dispute with Japan over the islands, China does not need these extra problems related to North Korea. It turns out that North Korea puts its elder neighbor under threat by its actions that are thoughtless from China's point of view. That is why it needs to short-circuit Pyongyang quite abruptly, especially that nit all is clear with the credibility of North Korea’s new leadership. While with Kim Jong-Il it was more or less clear what he would do, what North Korea’s young leader is like is not yet clear to the Chinese. That is why China can talk to him in a tougher way."

Due to Beijing’s pressure Pyongyang is postponing its nuclear tests, according to a number of experts. Meanwhile, it appears that North Korea's military are not happy with the political decision to delay the testing. One cannot exclude that Pyongyang's threat to take more decisive steps than the nuclear testing reflects its intention to demonstrate a complete independence in this issue.

The escalation of a military hysteria literally puts the Korean peninsula on the brink of a direct conflict. Seoul is already prepared for a preventive strike against North Korea if the North decides to attack the South. That was announced by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Korea Jung Seung-jo. He stated that the military would do that even under the threat of unleashing a full-scale war. It is better to get into a war than be attacked, the General said in response to a parliamentarian's question about whether the Army was ready to prevent a nuclear attack by the North.

The escalation of the tensions pushes China, the USA and Russia towards news steps in diplomatic solution of what may be the most serious crisis on the Korean peninsula over the last few years. Beijing is getting ready for the negotiations with the new US Secretary of State John Kerry regarding the situation in North-East Asia. On Thursday Russia stated that it had made new concrete proposals to help resolve the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula. Alexander Timonin, the Russian Ambassador to North Korea, made that statement at a press conference in Pyongyang. The package of initiatives has been handed to the other participants of the six-lateral negotiations – China, the USA, Japan and the two Koreas. They are studying the initiatives, which is why they have not been made public.

Alexander Timonin expressed his conviction that the Russian initiatives would lead to resuming the negotiations of the six nations on the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula. By this Moscow is signaling Pyongyang that it should call off its recent statement on exiting the process of negotiations.

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