In the UPF Webinar on March 26 on the prospects for a successful peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula, I proposed establishing a Northeast Asia Economic Zone, which would be part of the Organization for Northeast Asia Economic Cooperation. This possibilty is already being studied in Washington DC, including by the US government.
The situation of the Korean Peninsula Today
I would like to make clear the situation of the Korean Peninsula at the beginning.
The Korean Peninsula is still technically at war according to the Armistice Agreement which was signed in 1953. The Agreement was signed by the UN Command, which was represented by the US Army, the Chinese Volunteer Army and the DPRK. The ROK opposed the armistice and insisted on continuing the war to conquer the North. So, the ROK is not entitled to participate in any process designed to turn the armistice agreement into a peace agreement. The ROK has no authority to participate in negotiations between the US and DPRK.
Under the armistice conditions, the US is still the enemy of the DPRK today, and the UN as well. Therefore, the DPRK believes they have no obligation to respect the UN sanctions.
The United Nations Command–Rear with nine nations (Australia, the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Turkey, New Zealand, Philippines, and Thailand) is situated in Japan.
The DPRK pointed out that the relations between North and South are not inter-state relations, but state-to-state relations. They are in a time of war without an armistice agreement.
An agreement for an end of the war between the DPRK and the US, including the UN Command, would not mean the end of the war between the DPRK and ROK, and so a state of war would continue, theoretically. An end-of-war agreement between the DPRK and the US would bring to an end the DMZ and other contracts in the Armistice Agreement. This means there would be no official border between the DPRK and ROK, and it would be able to restart a war, and the US would be unable to support the ROK because of the end of war agreement.
Before talking about unification, South Korea should solve this condition by itself. Otherwise, the ROK will be just like a clownish dancer alone in their dream. Until the war between the ROK and DPRK, what is not related to the US-DPRK agreement, is ended, it is too early to think about unification. However, the ROK looks like they are not serious about settling those historical issues. It is pretty uncharted territory.
Northeast Asia today:
The situation of Northeast Asia is more than a just Cold War today, rather it is quite similar to that before WWII. There are three military and political superpowers, namely the US, China, and Russia. Also, there are three economic powers in Northeast Asia, namely the US, China, and Japan.
There are several critical issues which need to be urgently resolved, such as the Taiwan issue, the problem of Chinese vessels invading Japanese territory around the Senkaku Islands, the Korena Peninsula issue, and the Northern Territorial issue between Japan and Russia. However, there are no regional institutions for keeping order and dealing with stability, security, and development, thereby increasing mutual distrust and tensions. None of the countries in Northeast Asia are greatly inclined toward regional cooperation.
China is expanding its economy, military, absolutism, and expansionism rapidly with the One Belt One Road Initiative. The Chinese economy and industries are conquering significant markets in the world. Chinese expansionism will damage the original and historical order of the World. It is questionnable whether China will be able to keep up its expansionism forever. China wants to continue this expansion for the purpose of maintaining its internal politics. One Country, Two Systems means the Chinese Communist Party and the two systems under them. The People's Republic of China is just one of the CCP's administrative organs. The CCP is the country. Therefore, the people and the CCP have hostile relations historically. To ensure the suppression of the people and society, the CCP must continue its expansion of all of its powers indefinately. However, history shows they will ultimatemy meet their demise. A monster has to keep expanding for survival, but at the same time, fatal vulnerabilities are growing. It will be a mega impact event as well.
Xi Jinping might be aware this and be afraid of it. The regime will ultimately face collapse, whether it continues or stop its expansion.
The presence of the US in Asia
The so-called Pax Americana, through which the United States became the World's dominant economic and military power after WWII, is changing today. What will happen with the ending of Pax Americana?
Without the US's presence in the Northeast Asia region, the regional conditions would simply revert to those before WWII. Without the presence of the US Forces in the ROK, the DPRK would seek to unify the Korean Peninsula by themselves. The sovereignty of Taiwan would disappear. Japan might choose to become a nuclear power.
The Organization for Northeast Asia Economic Cooperation
It's time to consider establishing an institution for uniting the countries in Northeast Asia.
The most important key is the principle. Without noble principles, these talks will flounder.
The Mongolia Foreign Ministry has held the "Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security" since 2014. Since 2017, the conference has been upgraded to the 1.5 level, gathering together both government officials and academia. The UN, China, the DPRK, Japan, Russia, the US, and the ROK participated in the dialogue, along with several officials from Europe. Besides the panel discussions, there is a separate official dialogue meeting. The purpose was to give the DPRK the opportunity to participate.
It will be possible to discuss the organization for Northeast Asia Economic Cooperation at such an occasion.
What can be learned from the history of the European Union?
The unification of Germany was just an accident. Mikael Gorbachev attended the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the BDR at the Palace of the Republic at Unter den Linden on October 7, 1989. On that day, I watched the TV news in Moscow with a close advisor to Gorbachev. He told me, "Isomura-san, do you know why there are so many vacant seats there? It’s because everyone went to the West." I recognized that Gorbachev had forsaken Erich Honecker.
However, West Germany had made a wide variety of preparations toward East Germany, and West Europe and East Europe too.
The unification of the Korean Peninsula is just a dream under today’s conditions. Unification itself will not guarantee the stability and peace of the Peninsula. There can be stability in separation and tension and instability in unity.
The Organization for Northeast Asia Economic Cooperation is not just for the Korean Peninsula; it is for the region's stability. It will not be easy to solve these issues without such institutions, even the Korean Peninsula one.
Finally, when comparing Europe and Northeast Asia, we find that there is little similarity. There is not a core country with a mixture of trust and distrust. However, the substantial European efforts made starting from the Pan-European Union in 1923 until the establishment of the EU are good teachers. These were exceptional achievements based on delicate, confident, and inflexible efforts, especially the great principles and philosophy behind it.