The big news in Asia this week is not US President Trump’s grand but ultimately empty visit to China.  It is the quiet steps China and South Korea have begun to take towards each other, amid the deep suspicion most of them still have of Japan, which was Korea’s colonial master from 1910 to 1945.

The Russian foreign policy seemed to be edging towards a solution to the Korean crisis involving direct Chinese – Russian brokered talks between North and South Korea which would not involve the US, providing South Korea via North Korea and Russia with a land bridge to Europe, whilst bringing the two Korea’s together and binding them closer both economically and politically to the two Great Eurasian Powers Russia & China.

The longstanding Russian projects to build railway lines and gas pipelines across North Korea to South Korea, providing South Korea via North Korea and Russia with a land bridge to Europe, sounds more promising than the alternative event of a possible nuclear war.

These Russian plans – which have unquestionably been worked out in collaboration with China – might also involve the two Korea’s coming together in some form of confederation with each other. This being an idea first mooted by North Korean President Kim Il-sung in the 1970s, and floated from time to time ever since.

It turns that whilst the Russians have been talking to the North Koreans, the Chinese have been talking to the South Koreans, and the proposals they have been making to the South Koreans have been exactly in line with what was predicted by the BRICS members group insiders.

The Chinese and Russian objectives are in all respects identical, conclusively confirming that the two Eurasian Great Powers are acting in concert towards the same objective. Clearly there is an agreed division of labor between them, with the Chinese talking to the South Koreans over whom they have substantial economic leverage, and with the Russians talking to the North Koreans, with whom – unlike the Chinese – they have traditionally always had good relations.

The South Korean government has emphatically ruled out any idea of South Korea joining a trilateral alliance of the US, South Korea and Japan directed in theory against the threat from North Korea but in reality pitched also against the Eurasian Powers, China and Russia.

In light of all this the possibility of an eventual South Korean realignment with South Korea agreeing to become part of some sort of regional structure bringing together however loosely the two Korea’s and China and Russia does not seem to altogether far-fetched.

Seoul & Pyongyang should begin direct talks with each other. At the back of their minds they will hope that when such talks begin the idea of a realignment that could emerge naturally out of them. The prospects are in fact better now than they have ever been.

In the early 2000s, the USA was still very much the hyper-power with an effective veto over any move by South Korea and with the Chinese and the Russians having little to offer. By contrast today the huge growth of Chinese power and the strong recovery of Russia mean that for the first time a rapprochement between the two Korea’s, China and Russia looks both attractive and viable.

However already Chinese diplomacy has achieved a dramatic success, with South Korea’s agreement to limit THAAD deployments on the Korean Peninsula, the South Koreans ruling out the idea of a tripartite alliance between themselves the US and Japan, and with the South Koreans also agreeing to re-start defense talks with China.

The Russians have made a strong pitch to the North Koreans, whilst the Chinese breakthrough with the South Koreans suggests that the start of direct talks between Seoul & Pyongyang may not be as far off as most people think.

The Duran / AA Magnum Analyst Blog News 2017.


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