Saturday, July 30, 2005

China's Geopolitical Interests in the Korean Peninsula

I finally found time to read all of the Issues & Studies article "China, a Unified Korea, and Geopolitics," by Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes.

They note that Wang Chun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, published an article, "The DPRK Nuclear Crisis and China's Security," in the June 23, 2003 issue of Jingji guancha bao (i.e., Economic Observer News), in which North Korea is presented as a buffer for China:

China will not and cannot look on unconcerned at major issues on the Korean Peninsula. Should the chaos of war appear on the peninsula, leading to the collapse or breakup of the present DPRK government or its coming under the control of others, becoming a bridgehead for other great powers in East Asia, China will lose a strategic buffer zone, and the resulting problems will be very difficult to resolve. (p. 148)

Yoshihara and Holmes also cite Professor Gao Zichuan, of the People's Liberation Army Navy Command Academy, who published an article, "An Analysis of the Basic Situation of China's Peripheral Security Environment," in the January 1, 2004 issue of Dangdai Yatai (The Contemporary Asia-Pacific), the monthly journal of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, assessing security threats on China's periphery:

[T]he hidden perils and threats to security in the sea direction are greater than those in the land direction. Looking at the hidden perils to security . . . in the sea direction there are the actual and potential hot spots of the Korean Peninsula problems, the Taiwan problem, and the Nansha [ . . . Spratly Islands] problem, and so on; in particular there is the danger of large-scale conflict breaking out in the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan. Compared with the India-Pakistan conflict, the impact on China's security interests of the Korean Peninsula is much more conspicuous. The Korean Peninsula is the strategic buffer for northeast China's security; tension on the peninsula will wreck regional peace and stability and will also seriously affect China's modernization process; China's modernization cannot be finally realized without Korean Peninsula security. (p. 148)

I think that we can assume that both Chun and Zichuan are presenting views close to the hearts of those who make China's foreign policies. China continues to see the Korean peninsula, in geopolitical terms, as a buffer zone.

In geopolitical terms, China is thinking realistically, and their reality is that the Korean peninsula has a strategic role as a buffer zone crucial to China's security in its important northeastern provinces.

Korean reunification will not come easily.


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