Korea troops look toward South Korea at the border village
Concern is growing that the battle for sovereignty
in the East and South China Sea, which pits a China-
led bloc of states
U.S.-led bloc, could draw the two
Koreas into a new clash and delay unification.
The Hankyoreh, South
Worrying Talk of
Renewed North Korea-China Military Alliance
political situation is rapidly developing into a confrontation pitting a
southern bloc led by the United States against a northern bloc led by China. Increased
South Korean participation in the southern bloc will lead Pyongyang and Beijing
to band more tightly together."
U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with General Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, before their meeting in Beijing, July 11. Concern about a 'new Cold War' between the two countries is rising, as a territorial dispute in the East and South China Sea heats up.
The question of whether China
will support North Korea militarily if war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula
is once again becoming a topic of discussion. In the context of the signing of a
friendship treaty to mark the 50th anniversary of ties between the two countries
and after being dismissed as a notion of a bygone era, the question of automatic
Chinese military intervention on North Korea’s behalf has again emerged. This worrisome
and regrettable development demonstrates just how troubling the political
situation on and around the peninsula has become.
Article II of the 1961 Sino-North
Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty states, “In the event one
of the Contracting Parties is subjected to armed attack by any state or several
states and thus is involved in a state of war, the other Contracting Party
shall immediately render military and other assistance by all means at its
As the political situation
changed after the Cold War and Seoul established diplomatic relations with
Beijing, this provision was dismissed as nothing more than a dead letter. But with
the recent rise in tensions between North Korea and South Korea, circumstances
have changed. Last year, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry even
stated outright that there were no plans to amend or abolish the provision.
This is not just a problem
for North and South Korea. On Saturday in the waters off the northwest coast of
Borneo, the United States, Japan, and Australia launched joint military
exercises. This area is in the vicinity of the Spratly (Nansha) Islands, where
China and nearby Southeast Asian nations are clashing over sovereignty. The
United States either plans to hold or has held joint military exercises in the
South and East China Seas with the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. At last
month’s summit of foreign and defense ministers (2+2) between the United States
and Japan, the two countries made plans to beef up their separate tripartite
alliances with Australia, South Korea and India. This move was clearly aimed at
China. Naturally, Beijing has objected, and the regional arms race is picking
In the broad scheme of things,
inter-Korean tensions are a by-product and a driving force behind the upheaval
in East Asia. The political situation is rapidly developing into a
confrontation pitting a southern bloc led by the United States against a
northern bloc led by China. Increased South Korean participation in the
southern bloc will lead Pyongyang and Beijing to band more tightly together. In
this context, we must examine the significance of the renewed debate about
China’s automatic military intervention on North Korea's behalf.
territorial claims in the South China Sea: China sees
United States meddling, whereas other nations in the region
The problem is that the
confrontation is between blocs, which means that the strategic interests of the major
powers take priority. This doesn't tally with the interests of the Korean
people. It is exceedingly dangerous for North and South Korea to participate in
this New Cold War as a strategic sub-segment of these powers. This will prolong
a national division that has already dragged on for 60 years. Irrespective of
our wishes, a worst case scenario could see the Korean Peninsula again turned
into a battlefield. Rather than fighting, North and South Korea should summon
the wisdom to prosper together. That is the only way for both to survive.
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