October 7, 2009
North Korea has recently announced that the country’s recovering leader Kim Jong-Il, is willing to come back to the negotiating table, provided the six-party talks (Russia, China, USA, Japan, North and South Korea) are complemented by direct talks between North Korea and the US. So, what determined Kim Jong-Il to soften his stance ?
The election results in Japan are a good starting point in understanding the North Korean leader’s less bellicose stance. Japan’s new government’s overtures towards China and the possibility that the former would join ASEAN-plus-one in the near future makes military conflict or continuous tensions counterproductive. Or, as known, China is the only regional power with real influence over the political decisions taken by Pyongyang. The leadership in Beijing has signalled recently that it’s less inclined than at any time in the past to tolerate the peccadilloes of its former satellite, which has become an embarassment of late.
The restart of the six-party talks and the possibility of determining North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions are positive developments, which could considerably lessen military and diplomatic tensions in East Asia. This would render the presence of American warships unnecessary and could in time lead to fruitful reunification talks in the Korean peninsula. If and when such momentous developments take place, the American military presence in Korea and Japan would become redundant. This, to be sure, is a likely scenario high on the Beijing policymakers’ agenda.Florian Pantazi