Monday, December 05, 2016

Opinion: ASEAN cannot ignore rising Asia-Pacific tensions

A series of developments over the past weeks has definitely increased the diplomatic and military tensions in Asia-Pacific, which the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) cannot ignore because these could, by some miscalculation by trigger-happy military commanders of North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan or the US, ignite a real deadly nuclear war in the region.
The worst scenario: it could even spark a third world war.

By now, it is not hard to imagine – knowing how diplomatic negotiations and backdoor talks work in real life – that the active diplomacy and secret talks among the major players have started to stave off any direct armed confrontations between the US, Japan, South Korea, and even Taiwan on one hand, and North Korea, China and their allies on the other.
Last week, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un personally directed a massive war drill south of the 38th parallel, aimed at totally annihilating the South Korean capital of Seoul with nuclear rockets. It was reported by the official Pyongyang news agency, KCNA, as North Korea’s response to a resolution by the United Nations Security Council (which includes China and Russia) imposing new official sanctions against the Kim Jong-un dictatorship for conducting its fifth nuclear test explosion last September.
The UN Security Council Resolution was spearheaded by the US.
This latest nuclear test by North Korea violated its earlier agreement with the UN to stop its nuclear warhead tests and production.
Kim Jong-un said, according to KCNA, “… if a war breaks out, such a deadly strike should be inflicted upon the South Korean forces to completely break their will of counteraction and make a clean sweep of them… nobody and nothing would survive….”
In addition to the UN Security Council resolution, Washington also listed Kim Jung-un as a “sanctioned individual” (a rouge national leader and menace to word peace and stability) and also announced a scheduled annual joint military exercise with South Korea in January.
If this US-South Korean massive war games are held, Pyongyang’s Director General of US Affairs Han Song Ryoi told KCNA: “The US has crossed the red line…then a showdown will erupt…” because effectively, “…the US has declared war on North Korea.”
It should be pointed out that the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 when 75,000 well-equipped and disciplined troops of the North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, who was a firm believer of Communism and follower of Russia’s war-time leader Marshal Joseph Stalin, and grandfather of the current Pyongyang leader, crossed the 38th parallel and occupied South Korea. It was the first military invasion by the Communists in the Cold War.
The US entered the war a month after to help the beleaguered South Koreans and stop the spread of Communism under the influence of Moscow and Beijing’s Mao Tse-tung in Asia.
However, American President Harry S. Truman, who did not want to risk a total war with the Soviet Russians and the Communist Chinese of Mao, fired his military field commander in Korea (Gen. Douglas MacArthur) and the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953 with the Armistice. The Armistice established the two-mile wide no-man’s land on the 38th parallel, where armed North Korean People’s Army troops stand opposite the soldiers of the South Korean Republic of Korea soldiers. The Panmunjom truce line has been a tourist attraction for the Democratic and more economically progressive South since then.
In another related development, American President-elect Donald Trump has talked directly on the telephone with Taiwan President (Madame) Tsai Ing-wen recently, the US wire services and Taiwan’s official state news service, Central News Agency, reported. CNA said vaguely that they “…discussed issues affecting Asia and the future of US-Taiwan relations… and strengthening bilateral interactions and contacts, as well as setting up closer cooperative relations…”
Trump is to be sworn into office as President next month. Like all UN members do, the US recognizes the Beijing regime as the only Chinese representative in the international community of sovereign nations, but also maintains informal relations with Taipei. President Tsai is a vocal advocate of independence from Beijing, which considers Taiwan as a territory and rebel province of China.
The US has severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and China’s Kuomintang Party head (the late) Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who had to flee to Taiwan in 1949 when he and his troops lost to Chairman Mao and his Chinese Communist Party in their struggle for political and military control of China after the end of the last world war in 1945. The Beijing government, known as the People’s Republic of China, took over the reins of government and China’s membership to the United Nations, including its permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Kim Jong-un, like his grandfather and father before him, has been threatening the Asia-Pacific region with a shooting war every time the UN imposes sanctions against North Korea for violating the international agreement on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons. He is considered a menace to peace and regional security precisely because of his family’s successful brainwashing of the entire North Korean people. There have been a few defectors from North Korea to the South.
In the next 10 years, the Philippines and the rest of the Asean countries – as a regional economic group – are predicted to be growing at a rate of 7 to 8 percent of their gross domestic products (GDP) by international financial institutions, while China is expected to slow down.
Should incoming American President Trump succeed in compelling the return of American manufacturers to the US and away from China, and with the United Kingdom getting out of the European Union (Brexit), there is a possibility of better economic progress for Asean 10. But that won’t happen if the Asia-Pacific geopolitical and military tensions do not subside.
This, I strongly suggest, must be one of the priorities of the Asean Summit when the Philippines hosts it next year. With a world population projected to be between 9.8 billion and 10.9 billion up to 2050, food and water security will be a real issue globally. Friendly diplomatic and trade/commercial relations between worst enemies can prove to be the best alternative to a shooting war whereby there is no winner. Even the only ones left standing may lose because the entire remaining atmosphere or environment may not even be habitable for the “victors.”
(Email your reactions or comments to or the Manila Times. The columnist is president of the Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management and teaches journalism and geopolitics in the Lyceum of the Philippines University)

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