China would do well to abandon Cold War mindset towards Korea

Albert Einstein could have been thinking of those who reckon that a reunified Korea will be a United States military ally when he mused that "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" (How the Western media gets the Korean crisis wrong; May 13).

The Cold War resulted in Korea becoming divided.

Should its logic, which has yielded the tenuous assumption that the South Korean experience will inevitably triumph, define a reunified Korea?

The two Koreas' trade with China currently outstrips their commercial ties with America, and is likely to trend upwards.

A reunified Korea at peace with itself would be unlikely to host US military bases indefinitely, especially with its sizeable combined armed forces to deter aspiring hegemons.

Unlike its bigger neighbours, imperialism has not tainted the history of the one-time hermit kingdom. Throughout its history, Korea has always acted in self-defence against foreign invasion.

A single Korea has good potential to become a politically-neutral state like Austria or Switzerland for its own interests and act as an expanded buffer between long-time rivals, China and a Japan backed by the US.

Reunification can take many forms at the onset, including as a political confederation according to a "one country, two systems" formula, with a central command consolidating all security assets.

But whether Korean reunification occurs and succeeds will depend largely on several actors being able to transcend the binary Cold War logic of ideological and regime supremacy in the best interests of the Korean people.

Among the external parties involved with the aborted six-party talks, China ought to have the most skin in the game of facilitating peace, for obvious geo-strategic reasons, especially its desire to bring Taiwan back into its fold.

Lingering perception that it continues to support the status quo on the Korean Peninsula, including feeding a potential juggernaut that could come back to haunt all, may not only result in the probable nuclearisation of Japan and South Korea, but could also potentially nudge the Taiwanese to do likewise (US military action against Pyongyang could undermine trust; May 11).

Suffice it to say, China should know full well that any indulgence in double standards on these issues may yield adverse unintended consequences against its core interests.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'China would do well to abandon Cold War mindset towards Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe