Between the diplomatic back-and-forth between North Korea and its neighbors, appeasement has appeared in recent years with its southern counterpart. On the other hand, its relations with others are heating up, especially over the nuclear issue. How can North Korea’s relations with its neighbors become, and remain, stable and peaceful in such a particular cultural, social, and political context?
Since the Japanese occupation and the separation of the two Koreas, unwillingly, North Korea has been in a diplomatic and economic impasse. Even if relations with the rest of the world seem to be calming down, it is still a nuclear power that does not seem to want to stop its progression, and this worries other countries and the international community. One wonders how a stable and peaceful dialogue between North Korea and the rest of the world can be achieved. In trying to understand and bridge this gap in dialogue and agreement, we will try to find new ways of thinking in this article. Could a long-term multilateral approach be the key to this crisis?
Potential Conflict Management Strategies
Since their 1961 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, China remains North Korea’s most important ally and is in favor of the separation of the peninsula. Indeed, China carries its interests in the region, and for the moment, has the upper hand and its passage to the Pacific. A reunification would probably open the field to American settlement on its direct border.
However, North Korea worries the People’s Republic of China on one point: nuclear. Between tests and increasingly powerful ballistic launches, it is becoming a formidable adversary that could be limitless. China is therefore involved in talks to denuclearize the entire peninsula. This relationship remains strong economically and diplomatically, however, this lack of trust over the nuclear issue can change it dramatically. What weighs more heavily in the balance? In the game of international relations, it seems clear that the issue of trust and security will always have an advantage.
Historical grudges leave relations between the two countries too frayed: the Japanese occupation and the issue of forced prostitution during the Second World War are not forgivable. On the other hand, Japanese kidnappings are not settled, and spies are on Japanese territory, which is not to their liking. However, normalization of their diplomatic relations started in 1991 but they are not yet official because of the nuclear issue. Like China, Japan perceives the nuclear tests and launches as a direct threat and wants to put sanctions in place.
In themselves, the relationship between these two countries could get better and evolve into a healthy and stable relationship, but the security threat posed by North Korea is far too great to be acceptable.
Since the end of the Korean War, both countries, have not established formal diplomatic relations and are often on opposite sides. In addition to being often with Russia, North Korea is seen as a threat because it is limitless. However, since the Trump administration, a cordial understanding has occurred, even if the nuclear shutdown is a condition for negotiation and has not been met.
From a security and strategic point of view, it seems to me that the US would have an interest in building ties with North Korea, but I wonder if its attitude towards the latter is not only linked to its relations with Russia or China.
Even though Korea appears to be one entity, this does not prevent the North and South from being completely opposed to each other for many years, although their separation was not even of their own volition. Many attempts at dialogue were made after the Korean War to bring the two countries together and create confederation and non-aggression pacts. Until 2008, these political actions led to a mutual exchange between the two parties. Despite this, hostility remained, and a non-armed but rather cultural, social, and diplomatic conflict took hold on. South Korea is banking on future reunification through dialogue and diplomatic exchange, although given their conflictual past, a long-term peaceful relationship seems highly unlikely, especially if the dialogue breaks down again.
The process of bringing North Korea to the negotiating table to work out a nuclear and humanitarian settlement must surely go through multilateral actors to move beyond bilateral misunderstandings. They have the capacity to play a more neutral and important role in Korean affairs from an international level with the UN and a regional level with ASEAN.
Even though North Korea joined the UN in 1991, at the same time as the southern part, the UN remains terribly austere to this country and keeps on condemning it: since 2005, every year a complaint is lodged concerning human rights in North Korea. The UN, which exists for world peace and good diplomatic relations through a series of resolutions and discussions, cannot tolerate nuclear and humanitarian acts. But does the UN not put sanctions only to keep its face and credibility, because finally, what did it do to prevent all these crimes?
In view of the importance of ASEAN in the region and its need for stability, especially about its three major powers: China, Japan, and South Korea. An instability would drastically decrease the economy in the region and the initiatives of this regional community. In full awareness of this, ASEAN’s role in North Korea has not been fully explored or tested.
Having cut off diplomatic relations in 2019, North Korea continues to worry not only its neighbors but also the world. The nuclear issue makes these relations very complex and weak as none of the countries trust North Korea or its representative. Knowing the serious accusations, it faces, why is it that no superpower or international organization has intervened in recent years in a firm manner to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe and nuclear development from continuing?
BONDAZ, A. (2017). Corée du Nord/Etats-Unis: jusqu’où ira la confrontation ?. Cairn. Politique étrangère. P.103-114. Available at: https://www.cairn.info/journal-politique-etrangere-2017-4-page-103.htm Accessed at: 12.03.2021
CORNELOUP, D. (2019). La Corée du Nord et son rôle dans la rivalité géopolitique sino-américaine en Asie orientale. Dépôt universitaire de mémoires après soutenance. Available at: https://dumas.ccsd.cnrs.fr/view/index/identifiant/dumas-02294866 Accessed at: 12.03.2021.
GLOBAL CONFLICT TRACKER. (2021). North Korea Crisis. Global Conflict Tracker. Available at: https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/north-korea-crisis Accessible at 12.03.2021
GUNNPORSSON, F.P. (2020). North Korea and the end of the world. World Mediation Organization. Available at: https://worldmediation.org/north-korea-and-the-end-of-the-world/ Accessed at 15.03.2021.
ITUMO, A. NNAJI, F.C. NWOBASHI, H.N. (2020) United Nations Security Council and denuclearization of North Korea: Interrogating the imperative for freeze-for-freeze option. Global Journal of Social Sciences. Vol. 19. Available at: https://www.ajol.info/index.php/gjss/article/view/201132 Accessed at 15.03.2021
WERTZ, D. (2019) North Korea and ASEAN: Friends Again, but It’s Complicated. Asia Pacific Bulletin. East-West Center. N°462. Available at: https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/61758/apb%20no.462.pdf Accessed at 15.03.2021
WIKIPEDIA. (2021). Relations entre la Corée du Nord et la Corée du Sud. Wikipédia. Available at : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relations_entre_la_Cor%C3%A9e_du_Nord_et_la_Cor%C3%A9e_du_Sud#Politique_du_rayon_de_soleil,_2000_%C3%A0_2008 Accessed at : 12.03.2021