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Published On: Thu, Mar 16th, 2017

Tillerson Wants New Approach to Nuclear North Korea

nsnbc : Starting his first Asia tour to Japan, South Korea and China in Tokyo, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it’s clear that a different approach is required after 20 years of failed diplomatic effort to prevent North Korea from acquiring and possessing nuclear weapons. Judging by Tillerson’s statements “a new approach” largely translates into “more of the same, just more of it”.

Tillersen_Kishida_Tokyo_Japan_Mar 2017Speaking in the Japanese capital Tokyo on Thursday, on the first leg of his trip to Asia, Tillerson said part of the reson he is visiting the region is to exchange views with Japan, South Korea and China on other approaches to the North Korean nuclear issue. At a joint press conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Tillerson said:

“North Korea and its people need not fear the United States or their neighbors in the region who seek only to live in peace with North Korea. … With this in mind, the United States calls on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and refrain from any further provocations.”

Tillerson also pledged that the United States’ support of Japan is “unwavering”. That said, Japanese support for U.S. military bases in Japan is wavering – an issue that neither Tillerson nor Kishida addressed in public this time around.

On Friday Tillerson will be visiting the Republic of Korea (KOK) a.k.a. South Korea where after he will be visiting China to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. Talks in South Korea will be held with the conservative caretaker government of PM and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn. Hwang is leading the polls among possible conservative party candidates, but Hwang announced the he would not run in the presidential elections as he needs to manage the transitional period until a new president has been elected and inaugurated.

That said, Hwang and other conservatives are relatively far behind Moon Jae-in, the frontrunner and former head of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party. The liberal Minjooo party and Moon don’t necessarily see eye to eye with the United States’ position and policy with regard to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) a.k.a. North Korea. A Minjoo party and Moon presidency is also likely to return to a more constructive intra-Korean dialog – Needless to say that Washington isn’t exactly celebrating this prospect or welcoming policies aimed to peacefully reunite Korea.

Koreans in the North and the South perceive the upcoming presidential elections as an unofficial referendum that determines whether or not the majority of South Koreans approve of the hard-liner policy of the now ousted president Park. A South Korea under a Moon and Minjoo party presidency, believe many analysts, would be likely to return to a less bellicose policy based on joint economic development, intra-Korean dialog, laying the foundation for a feasible reunification by bringing the two countries economies on par, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation, rather than a policy that is mainly based on military pressure, military deterrence, and economic sanctions.

It is important to note that many South Koreans who were told that Seoul has regained command over the ROK’s armed forces lack awareness about the fact that the United States still has the “supreme command” over both US and South Korean forces in wartime. A minor “shooting war” between the North and the South would in other words mean that Seoul would have to transfer the command over its armed forces to Washington. Moreover, one may argue that the transfer of the “peacetime command” over the ROK’s armed forces from Washington to Seoul was an intellectual or PR exercise anyway because the ROK and the DPRK are officially still in a state of war.

Tragically, media in South Korea and the USA are positioning the DPRK as “a vassal of China” which sadly is as true as the fact that the ROK’s defense and even the command of its forces is in the hands of the United States. What may be even more tragic is that both China and the USA belong to the club of self-anointed permanent UN Security Council members whose alleged function and obligation it is to peacefully solve conflicts and to guarantee other UN members right to self-determination and territorial integrity.

Tillerson will also be visiting with American military forces in South Korea engaged in joint exercises with ROK forces, that include the nuclear powered aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson. A “show of force”, allegedly aimed to “deter and counter” the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities.

No details about possible discussions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea between Tillerson and Xi have been released. However, it is likely that an eventual “new approach” to the DPRK and its nuclear weapons program by the USA as well as by China may translate into – more of the same – just more of it. On Thursday Tillerson praised the people’s Republic of China for playing a very important role in efforts to encourage North Korea to abandon its nuclear program – he also encouraged China to “fully implement U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

CH/L – nsnbc 16.03.2017

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