Serving diplomacy


Bringing North Korea to the table

North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un recently went on an unofficial visit to Beijing. This first ‘unofficial trip’ for the Korean leader lasted from Sunday to Wednesday, 25th March to 28th March 2018. This was the first exchange between North Korea and China since Kim Jong-un has risen to power; thus setting new precedents in international relations.

According to the official statement issued by Chinese state media Xinhua news agency, Kim told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the situation on the Korean peninsula is “starting to get better”, and that Korea is eager to take steps to denuclearise the peninsula. This, he added, was to be in accordance with the wishes of late Korean President, Kim Il-sung and late General Secretarty Kim Jon-il.

Kim also highlighted that if US and South Korea “respond with good will and create an atmosphere of peace and stability the issue of denuclearisation can be resolved.” Kim is also due to meet South Korean President Moon Jae in April and then US President Donald Trump in May.

North Korea’s announcement of denuclearisation in Beijing, at a meeting with Xi Jinping is significant as this highlights the former’s earnest to have its historically important partner, China on its side for support in holding dialogue with international players such as South Korea and US. This has come about after “…campaign of maximum pressure” by both US and China by way of economic sanctions and international isolation. China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 90% of overall trade and a provider of food aid and energy resistance.

If two countries are different in their values and ideals because of how they view the world; the unavailability of any similarities might ultimately make any efforts at reaching a dialogue inconclusive

China’s diplomacy for North Korea

While it seems like a good idea that there is one less rouge state in the international arena, it’s still not clear whether or not North Korea would abide by the same ideals of diplomacy as the rest of the neo-liberalised countries. Diplomacy can be carried out between two diplomatic equals, only then can a consensus be reached. If two countries are different in their values and ideals because of how they view the world; the unavailability of any similarities might ultimately make any efforts at reaching a dialogue inconclusive.

Evaluating this as per Putnam’s framework we have two very different win-sets, of which a rogue state like North Korea will always have greater leverage. However, a rogue state that was all out declaring war on countries like US and was unmoved by economic sanctions from both US and China; might still strike a hard bargain. Denuclearisation is just one part of this, how it would unravel and on what grounds remains to be seen. The process of this denuclearisation coupled with US’ shift in foreign policy towards Asia would bring in new narratives in this post-globalised world.

It is also worth noting that China has emerged as the entry point for North Korea to enter international politics and because of the shared ideology and historical alliance between the two, North Korea might actually be at a better end of the bargain. China’s revival of historical alliances and its regional penetration to bring ‘peace and prosperity in the region’ are significant.

This over-arching economic integration brand being promulgated by China all throughout the region is an indication of a future diplomatic dictation by China through economic means. For the same economic integration, Pakistan should also be wary of future consequences.

North Korea ‘opening up’ for diplomatic dialogue might actually be a good sign but how it proceeds will determine the course of this new international dialogue. It should be noted that China is on an economic rise, making it easier to penetrate through states’ domestic and international relations.