ADMITTEDLY, communist North Korea is a rogue state which causes military and geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. Most industrialized Western governments, if a survey is taken, will most likely condemn the Pyongyang regime and Kim Jung-un as a threat to world peace.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte, obviously because of North Korea’s continuous test-firing of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (one landed at sea a few kilometers east of northeastern Luzon last year), says that Kim is “buang” (crazy or mentally unstable) …”playing with dangerous toy.”
Naturally, the countries that have not condemned North Korea are Iran, communist Russia and China, because of their common ideology and disagreements with the United States and the European Union members and democracies. The latter are the loudest opponents of North Korea for its violations of the nuclear arms limitations agreement among the United Nations members.
(Last week the UN imposed additional sanctions on North Korea for its ICBM tests. The US has said China is the most influential power over Pyongyang and must do more than just reducing trade with the Kim dictatorship.)
In the real world of geopolitics and the harsh competition for hegemony, or political, military or economic influence among the industrialized and superpower states over the less developed or developing countries like the Philippines, the US and its Western allies believe that China and Russia are using Pyongyang against “the free world.”
On the other hand, China and Russia and their allies (regarded as the East) of course “help” (or are using) North Korea against the Americans who have long maintained that the communists’ goal is to wipe out human liberties and the rule of law in this planet.
All those can be considered the bad news North Korea has brought to us all peace-and-law-and-order-loving, war-weary members of the Asean10.
The good news is: North Korea has unintentionally and unknowingly galvanized an alliance, between China and the Asean members, for peace and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region to defuse the probability of igniting another world war.
The agenda of the Asean plus three (China, North Korea and the US) annual Asean Regional Forum (ARF), which started in Manila yesterday, and the immediately following Asean foreign ministerial meeting are the concrete proof.
Under the Philippine chairmanship this year, Asean wants a head-on meeting with the North Koreans to resolve the nuclear weapons and Asia-Pacific tension issues, as the US insistently demands that more trade and aid restrictions on Pyongyang be imposed.
Actually, the Chinese offers of building an infrastructure network between Asean countries and China (as it has done with African and Central Asia countries) to facilitate the cheaper transport and exchanges of goods and people is the major initial steps toward economic prosperity.
Clearly, this is the best psychological move for Beijing because it cannot afford—nor can it win– a war now against the US. The Americans have the technological and weapons superiority—and experience. The Chinese are winning this phase of their world leadership competition because it is the economic route everybody wants.
The Chinese have learned to copy the American propaganda offensive of the last 70 years with print media publicity, audio-visual and digital communications technologies. In the Asean capitals, Chinese supplements extolling Beijing’s economic initiative/offensive are read weekly in English and the regional languages.
Just surf the Manila TV stations daily to prove this.
The Americans undeniably promote freedom and globalization, and are the top world economic-military power today. But they have lost the economic initiative to Beijing. The US military industrial machine still controls their national economy. And the common perception in developing nations is that globalization promotes organized and big corporations, which actually works against the small-scale and backyard individual home enterprises.
Proof of this: the current emphasis among the Asean members to provide capital/credit access to micro-medium scale enterprises and the low-income farmers-fisherfolk of the Philippine (and other Asean members).
Another factor that pushes the Chinese initiative is the growth of the world population and the priorities in the next 25 years: The Asea population is now 650 million and counting. And food and water security will be a serious issue unless adequately addressed today. Extreme poverty will still be the UN millennial goal in the next two decades as the world economies will go through its cyclical phases.
That the economic lane is the path for the intermediate and long-term future for us in this section of the planet, is no guarantee there will be no war in the Asia-Pacific region. For all we know it will take only one miscalculating/erring field commander to start it and order a “retaliatory/defensive” move. It will be wise to always keep an alternate tactical plan all the time. Work for the best but prepare for the worst.
The next chairman of the Asean summit and working conferences is Singapore. Our primary suggestion is for Asean to sustain the credit/technological support for the agriculture and fisheries sectors of the 10 Asean economies, continue upgrading the human resources, adopt new production technologies and continue all programs of food production to ensure security.
All these could be invaluable bases for being neutral in case of war. Asean is capable of being the food supplier to all warring countries because that can be our guarantee to be friends of all and enemy to no one.
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