Dr. Leonid Petrov, visiting fellow at the Australian National University reveals an interesting point of view which is hardly ever reported in the western press. The conversation starts with an analysis of the fact that Russia and China are now issuing joint statements regarding North Korea. This in itself is highly significant. Dr. Petrov says that the short answer to explain this is “anti-Americanism, …both Russia and China see North Korea as a regional whistle blower. Every time the Americans and South Koreans and Japanese start military exercises, North Korea goes ballistic….” Both Russia and China appear to agree that North Korea deserves to be treated fairly and be given some security assurances.
This point of view is completely opposite from that of the mainstream western media, and Dr. Petrov points out the North Korea might well stop its nuclear development program in exchange for the ceasing of military exercises and the removal of ballistic missiles in South Korea. “These factors have made Moscow and Beijing work together.”
Dr. Petrov supplies detailed information about exactly what military exercises are held in South Korea, which have been held since the 1970s, are held twice a year and consolidate hundreds of thousands of South Korean and some American troops. From North Korea, these exercises are seen as being preparations for an invasion. Dr. Petrov’s explanation for North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons is as a deterrent against an attack, necessary after the Soviet Union collapsed and they realized that they are on their own. “They cannot even rely on the military agreement with China of 1961, whereby China pledged to protect North Korea if it’s under attack,” Dr. Petrov says.
China is, Dr. Petrov says, also concerned about what the US is doing in the South China Sea, China is not prepared to give up its control of the region. Russia is also not oblivious to affairs in the seas around North Korea, owing to still unresolved issues regarding northern Japanese islands, and in general, Russia does not look favorably on an increased American presence in the Sea of Japan.
War, however, seems unlikely. “Anyone who talks about war in Korea is either ignorant of the military power that North Koreans have, or they are bluffing, which is quite possible. Having a war in this overcrowded piece of land which extends from continental China would be like having a war in the middle of Europe, or somewhere on the eastern coast of America, … it would be a disaster, given that North Koreans have nuclear weapons, and the South Koreans expect that the Americans will interfere, as they did dying the Korean war, …every day of war would create damage costing at least $1 billion and millions of human lives,” Dr. Petrov says.
In many ways, the situation in North Korea is useful for all parties. Dr. Petrov explains that the military dictatorship in North Korea uses the threat of war to encourage nationalism, that bolsters their power. The South Koreans would not really be able to govern the northern territories, without a huge risk of civil war. The Americans don’t particularly want the North Korean problem to disappear either, as North Korea is a very convenient enemy. “North Korea looks scary, sounds crazy, it constantly detonates or launches something, what a wonderful excuse to sell very expensive weapon systems to their regional allies.”
Dr. Petrov sees many underlying reasons for the present situation: “There were some expectations when democratizing Russia and democratically changing and reforming China promised that they would be prepared to recognize South Korea in exchange for American and Japanese diplomatic recognition of North Korea. Moscow and Beijing lived up to their promises, but the Americans and Japanese refused to do so.”
Without unity amongst the six major powers which are directly involved with the North Korea, the crisis there is going to keep going for ever. Dr. Petrov sees very little chance of an agreement being reached, and perhaps the point of 6-party talks is, paradoxically to ensure that agreement is never reached.
This program covers many interesting political issues surrounding this topic, including which are hardly ever discussed in the mainstream media.
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