Published On: Mon, Apr 16th, 2018

Asia-Pacific policy in jeopardy!

Asia PacificMohammad Jamil

The US policy known as ‘pivot’ to Asia was unfolded in 2013 according to which 60 percent of the navy’s fleet would be deployed to the Pacific by 2020; Singapore would house four new US Littoral Combat Ships designed to fight close to shorelines, while Indonesia wanted to buy a range of American hardware and take part in joint manoeuvres.

The Philippines wanted to host more US troops and Australia had agreed to allow up to 2,500 Marine Corps soldiers to deploy to the northern city of Darwin. That had caused hard-liners within the Chinese establishment to view such an action as a strategy of regional containment or encirclement. After withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the US and its allies started focusing on Asia-Pacific to counter China’s rising influence. However, the main irritant to US was Pak-China Partnership, which under the CPEC has assumed much importance.

It appears that both South and North Korea have realised that both stand to gain from peace in the Peninsula. North Korea has recently given overtures that it would like to have cordial relations with the South Korea to the chagrin of the US. During a New Year’s Day speech, Kim Jong Un had said: “North and South must work together to alleviate the tensions and work together as a people of the same heritage to find peace and stability.” Kim added that he wanted North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics. Moon quickly responded to Kim’s remarks, saying it was “a response to our proposal to turn the Pyeongchang Olympic Games into an epoch-making opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations and establish peace.” That led to days of negotiations between the two countries, which secured the north’s participation at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has long sought better relations and dialogue with the north. It appears that Moon will accept the invitation, and if it materializes it would be the first time a South Korean president would land in North Korea since 2007 — and the third time overall. Eleven years ago, the south’s Roh Moo-hyun and the North’s Kim Jong-Il, Kim Jong Un’s father, signed an eight-point peace agreement.

Those opposed to the peace between North and South Korea are raising doubts about the sincerity of Pyongyang’s outreach, and that North Korea’s goal could be to drive a wedge between the US and South Korea; but this is too far-fetched. The desire for peace on the part of South Korea, especially when North Korea has given overtures of peace, is natural; and it may create conditions conducive to peace in the region.

The credit for reducing tension and trust deficit goes to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, who invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the country for a summit at an early date in Pyeongyang, which is likely to be accepted. Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, delivered that message during her meeting with Moon on Saturday. In a note she wrote when visiting the presidential office, Kim Yo Jong said: “I hope Pyongyang and Seoul will become closer in the hearts of Koreans and will bring unification and prosperity in the near future.”President Donald Trump is not happy over the bonhomie between North and South Korea, as he had many a time rejected the idea for the need to talk with the north. This difference of opinion became obvious during the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremonies.

Moon and Vice President Mike Pence watched the ceremonies from the VIP balcony in the stadium, and they were joined by Kim Yo Jong. Moon shook Kim’s hand; however Pence gave a cold shoulder and refused to engage with her. There are some analysts who believe that friendlier relations between South and North Korea could be a source of satisfaction to the countries in the region.

America has been pursuing the policy of containing China, but despite its ruses and manipulations, China has excellent relations with the countries of Asia, Africa and South America. Despite some bickering, the US-China relations have markedly improved after boost in their economic ties

Yet there are others who warn the US that if Seoul negotiates with Pyongyang on its own, it would lessen the reliance on the US. Anyhow, in January, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had offered to send a delegation of athletes and cultural performers to take part in Winter Olympics. Suspension or postponement of joint US-South Korean military drills until after end of the games, and a pause in North Korean missile tests have radiated an aura of optimism, and it could provide a window of opportunity for moving forward.

America has been pursuing the policy of containing China, but despite its ruses and manipulations, China has excellent relations with the countries of Asia, Africa and South America.

Despite some bickering and debating, the relations between the US and China had markedly improved after boost in their economic ties. China, which owns an estimated $1.22 trillion in US. Treasuries till the end of 2017, is the number-one investor among foreign governments. That’s 19 percent of the $6.3 trillion in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds held by foreign countries. The rest of the $20 trillion national debt is owned by either the American people or by the US government itself. In this backdrop, China is benefactor of the US; therefore, the US is not likely rock the boat because it would be the loser in the long run.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at mjamil1938@hotmail.com

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