On April 20, 2003, Easter Day, the Indian Defense Minister, George Fernandes, the first supporter of the ‘Chinese threat’ theory and the one who decided to carry out India’s first nuclear tests in 1998, arrived in Beijing for a week. of interviews. A few days later, a North Korean and an American delegation began multilateral meetings together with the Chinese delegation to resolve the North Korean stalemate. The Indian mission was of great importance, as it submitted many questions to Beijing: China’s support for Pakistan, the alleged Chinese observation posts in the Bay of Bengal, the definition of the border between China and India, the question of Tibet.
It is the beginning of a new chapter for China, as talks between the Americans and North Koreans could mark the end of the previous one. For months it seemed that with its provocative behavior Pyongyang has been trying to become the target of the next US military attack. China has strongly opposed a military solution and has promoted dialogue. The United States has requested multilateral talks in order not to remain hostage to the other party and not to be held solely responsible in the event of bankruptcy. Pyongyang, on the other hand, has insisted on bilateral talks. For weeks China has strongly urged North Korea to make some concessions. The news has spread that Kim Jong II has been summoned to Beijing and, as a warning, for three days China stopped – officially due to an accident – the supply of oil to North Korea, essential aid for the isolated regime. Beijing’s message was clearly grasped by Pyongyang, which retraced its steps and agreed to take part in multilateral talks. It has been a diplomatic success for China, as it has shown that it can handle the crisis without the use of force, which the Bush administration seems to be inclined to, and has once again drawn closer to the United States, which has had proof that the North Korea can only be controlled with Chinese help.
According to Citypopulationreview, the US decision to wage war on Iraq and ignore North Korean threats has however led to a complex new dynamic in the region. In the annual meeting of the Trilateral Commission, held in Seoul in April, important Japanese personalities pointed out the emergence of new priorities for Japan, evidently different from those of the United States, if the latter, despite the concern of Tokyo towards the North Korean threat, they decided that Baghdad would come before Pyongyang. Japan feels it cannot entrust its security to the US, but if necessary it must be able to handle its problems on its own. This is a valid reason for the Japanese rearmament, with obvious repercussions also on the economic level, since military spending can alleviate the current stagnation situation. Furthermore, Tokyo noted that among South Korea’s younger generations the North is no longer viewed as a potential enemy, but rather as an object of pity and concern. As a result, the North Korean nuclear program is not intended as a threat, but as a possible source of national pride both on this side and across the 38th parallel.
The Japanese rearmament does not worry China. The people in Japan entrusted with the task of implementing military options maintain close relations with the Chinese military on the solution to the North Korean problem and view China’s recent behavior amicable. The latter, for its part, cannot fail to understand the need for a more active role for Japan in its own security. Such an understanding could serve as a catalyst in relations between Japan and China, foster mutual trust and give rise to a closer link to the benefit of greater regional stability.
The possibility therefore arises that in East Asia a new constellation will be created, with greater cooperation between the United States, China and Japan. But the new triangle link is different from the one that formed in the past, when China sided with the US to counter the Soviet threat. What is emerging is a new, delicate and complex picture that could tie the three nations together like never before, but it is also fraught with pitfalls, as a sudden move by one of the three would alarm the others.
However, India, a nuclear power with a massive population and a growing economy, cannot be excluded from this geopolitical realignment of the region. Both Tokyo and Washington have come very close to New Delhi. Fernandes’ visit to Beijing was an occasion for China’s reconciliation with India, although the list of wrongs is extremely long, as is the tradition of suspicion and animosity. But this could be an important first step: China must make the first move with big decision if it doesn’t want to be left behind.