The historical alliance between the U.S. and North Korea-China
The historical alliance between the U. S. and North Korea-China has always been rocky. Korea was at the center of all of the major wars in East Asia in the 20th century, yet has often been overlooked or underestimated by the world until it was too late (Hwang 2). From the Sino-Japanese War in 1894 to Korea and Viet Nam, Korea has served as a strategic touchstone for the other Asian nations. For example, some have argued that the United States entered Viet Nam as a direct reaction to its failure to stop Communism in Korea (Ibid. p. 3).
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South Korea has managed to become a great economic force—one of the “Asian tigers” so worrisome to the U. S. for the past few decades. South Korea has the tenth-largest economy in the world and serves as a democratic model for other Asian nations. North Korea, on the other hand, has a failed industrial economy and is an active Communist nation under a troublesome and cruel dictator. The United States unwittingly became the catalyst for South Korea’s current powerful position; by intervening in Korea in June 1950 they guaranteed South Korea’s safety by protecting the nation from North Korean troops (Hwang 3).
For years after that the alliance between the U. S. and the Republic of Korea has been outstanding. This alliance has guaranteed economic prosperity and has gained us a valuable political ally, as well. The ROK contributed both money and troops to the Viet Nam war effort, and, more recently, contributed to Operation Desert Storm during the first Gulf War (Ibid. p. 4). After the Nixon doctrine in 1969, South Korea reacted by creating a military force and a strong domestic defense industry. Later, the formation of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the later redirection of U.
S. troops from South Korea to Iraq caused further tension. These actions led many in South Korea to believe that the United States was punishing the ROK for its criticism of its policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) (Hwang 5). The most profound difference in recent policy shifts must be addressed first. The U. S. continues to worry about the DPRK’s military and nuclear strength, while the Republic of Korea fears that a breakdown of the current regime would lead to a subsequent collapse of their own economy.
In sum, the United States’ attitude toward North Korea has been a consistent one of fear of military might, whereas South Korea’s has altered drastically. The ROK no longer worries about a military threat; instead they are concerned what might happen to their own stability and economic prosperity if the DPRK should fail. Until recently, China had been one of the DPRK’s strongest allies and protectors. According to John J. Tkacik, Jr.
in his article, “China’s devout wish has been that North Korea might bluster about having the bomb—and allow the world to suspect that it had one—without actually testing one and removing all doubt. North Korea could leverage that ambiguity for international aid, while China could act as an honest broker and still claim to be concerned about nuclear proliferation” (Tkacik 1). Unfortunately for U. S. foreign policy makers, the attitude of China and North Korea toward them has been one of blame. Beijing has constantly withheld any criticism of the DPRK and blamed the U.
S. for all of North Korea’s financial and political troubles. After the Six-Party Talks, Ambassador Wang Yi told the press in 2003: “America’s policies toward North Korea, this is the main problem we are facing” (Tkacik 1). The Bush Administration claimed in 2005 that it would respect North Korea’s right to light nuclear reactors. The Chinese continued to insist that the U. S. lift its economic sanctions on the DPRK, despite the fact that the country’s excessive illegal activities have put them on unsteady political ground with even their most stalwart allies.
The War on Communism spanned the greater part of the 20th century. If one analyzes Korea, Viet Nam, and even the Cold War, one can see that these conflicts were constructs of an American government steeped wholeheartedly in the ideals of realism. The United States was not concerned about the treatment of the individuals in Korea or Viet Nam; if they were, they would have found that many of the Vietnamese favored the Communist government, at least on a fundamental level. From an international standpoint, we all need to be more aware of the effects our actions will have in the world.
North Korea and China have been isolated for decades now, especially in their political ideology. They are some of the few holdouts of Communist doctrine. China, at least, has some pro-capitalist policies and has been actively trading goods with other nations. North Korea is an economic burden to China, however. If some of our international trade organizations or the World Bank could assist North Korea financially, it would help ease some of China’s fiscal responsibility and make them more amenable to future negotiations with regards to the DPRK.
China recently stopped bank transfers to Pyongyang banks in hopes that collapsing North Korea’s access to hard currency may make them toe the line. Sir Menzies Campbell of the British Liberal Democrat Party has been quoted as seeking more sanctions against the North Koreans: “A unified response on the part of the United Nations and from North Korea’s closest neighbours, particularly China, is vital. These sanctions should target the regime, not the Korean people” (libdems. org). Another solution we need to actively pursue is building up North Korea’s economy.
While Campbell’s solution seems obvious, putting more sanctions on the already beleaguered nation would only intensify North Korea’s negative attitude toward the United States and possibly destroy the last vestiges of goodwill that the South Koreans hold for us. If the current regime collapses, we will see an influx of literally millions of refugees streaming across the South Korean border and into China, putting those nations in economic jeopardy. It could take years to clean up a situation of that magnitude, and we need South Korea as a trading partner.
Therefore, we need to actively encourage the DRPK to strengthen its economy from within. This will prevent the growth of illegal activities and possibly encourage the nation to embrace a capitalistic and democratic regime that much more quickly. The best solution would have to come from the international arena. We must realize that the United States is not quite the military and economic giant that we once were. We are not solely responsible for the world’s problems; however, we cannot simply ignore them, either. We live in a world that has become increasingly unified.
Globalization is not just a liberal concept, it is a reality. We need, therefore, to begin to understand and embrace liberal ideals of mutual cooperation and respect. It is the only way we will survive in a world where we are no longer the top dog, but only the dog with the biggest teeth. This solution sounds simplistic, and is one which we may never realize within our lifetime. It is not an impossible solution, however. The EU was a pipe dream for years. Many of the European nations had resentments and issues that dated back for hundreds of years.
Germany bore the brunt of mistrust for its aggressive stance during both World Wars. Today, the EU is one of the strongest economic collectives on the planet. When the United States was the victim of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the empathy of the world was overwhelming. Even some of the Arabic nations such as Jordan came to our aid, offering troops and assistance. We have been extremely fortunate in the last sixty years. We have not seen any major wars, nor have we seen any of the mass atrocities that marked the reign of Hitler or Stalin.
This is why the genocide in Rwanda affected us so deeply—we thought that we had gone beyond such horrors. The media has brought the world into our living rooms. We cannot block the world out—isolationism is not an option. What we and the international organizations can do is this: we can find a sustainable global economy and we can find viable solutions to issues that concern all of us. We can review the U. N. Charter and eliminate all outdated and useless language. If this does not work, perhaps forming a new organization might be the key.
We could take responsibility for nuclear weapons and finally make a definitive decision concerning their use and misuse. The easiest way to maintain global stability from terrorism would be to create a permanent U. N. army, with all nations represented. The U. N. would then have the military might to go beyond its peacekeeping duties but would be able to stop conflicts before they escalated. Ratification and acknowledgement of the ICC would also be a positive change (simpol. org). If all nations knew that tyrants and terrorists would be punished accordingly and brought to justice it might eliminate the temptation to hide these criminals.
John Bunzi of the International Simultaneous Policy Organisation believes that these solutions are possible. As he writes, “The Simultaneous Policy is a peaceful political strategy to democratically drive all the world’s nations to apply global solutions to global problems, including combating global warming and environmental destruction, regulating economic globalization for the good of all, and delivering social justice, peace and security, and sustainable prosperity” (simpol. org). The ultimate solution to the issue of North Korea seems to stem from Bunzi’s last statement.
Sustainable prosperity is the only possible diplomatic resolution to the escalating problems with the DPRK, and indeed with any nation. If we stopped trying to coerce other nations to follow our lead and instead gave them the tools to do so themselves, we would all benefit. Ultimately, the path to successful globalization lies in financial and political cooperation that would allow all nations to keep their own national and cultural identity while making them an integral part of the international whole.
Books Lieber, Robert J. : The Eagle Adrift: American Foreign Policy at the End of the Century. Glenview, Ill. Scott, Foresman, 1998. Mingst, Karen A. Essential Readings in World Politics. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company, 2004. Mingst, Karen A. Essentials of International Relations. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company, 2004. Articles Asher, David L. , “How to Approach the China-North Korea Relationship”, October 10, 2006, Rpt. Delivered to the Heritage Org. Davidson, Tim, “Taking Back Congress”, Rolling Stone, October 19, 2006.
Hwang, Balbina Y. “The U. S. -Korea Alliance on the Rocks: Shaken, Not Stirred”, October 16, 2006, Lecture delivered to the Heritage Organization. Sik, Cheong Wook, “Sudden Changes in Bush’s North Korea Policy”, August 7, 2006. Tkacik, John J. “A New Tack for China after North Korea’s Nuclear Test”, October 11, 2006, Article delivered to the Heritage Organization. Walt, Stephen M. “International Relations: One World, Many Theories”, Washington: Spring 1998, Iss. 110 Website: www.heritage.org.