Mainland and Japan Grapple: Koreas Benefit, Taiwan Marginalized
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 7, 2014
Summary: The Korean Peninsula has been quiet for quite some time. Recently
however, it has suddenly become the object of Mainland Chinese and
Japanese attention. In the past, Japan warmed to South Korea to oppose
North Korea. Mainland China warmed to North Korea to oppose South Korea.
Both offered concessions. This enabled the two Koreas benefit from the
Sino-Japanese conflict. It also impacted the East Asian political
situation, and marginalized Taiwan.
Full Text below:
The Korean Peninsula has been quiet for quite some time. Recently however, it has suddenly become the object of Mainland Chinese and Japanese attention. In the past, Japan warmed to South Korea to oppose North Korea. Mainland China warmed to North Korea to oppose South Korea. Both offered concessions. This enabled the two Koreas benefit from the Sino-Japanese conflict. It also impacted the East Asian political situation, and marginalized Taiwan.
Now however, Beijing is attempting to undermine the United States-South Korea military containment strategy. Beijing broke with its customary practice of making diplomatic visits to North Korea first, and South Korea second. Mainland President Xi Jinping led a 300 person delegation to South Korea. Most delegation members were economic and trade officials and entrepreneurs. As we can see, the purpose of the trip was economic rather than political.
During the Beijing-Seoul leaders summit Xi Jinping gave Seoul a generous present. He intends to sign the PRC-ROK FTA by the end of the year. He will use economic concessions to win over South Korea. This move allows South Korea to conclude FTAs with the United States, the EU, and Mainland China. South Korean President Park Geun-hye noted also that the "China Dream" and the "Korean Dream" are the same. Both dreams are aimed squarely at the Japanese.
Japan and South Korea have long-standing historical grievances and intractable territorial disputes. Despite careful mediation by the United States, Abe is still awaiting a response from Park Geun-hye. Japan therefore, has changed course. It has made overtures to North Korea. It has announced that Japan will relax economic sanctions against North Korea. This move was an attempt to weaken Beijing's influence over North Korea. In order to counter the "Xi Park meeting," North Korea has agreed to re-establish the "Japanese Hostage Special Investigation Committee." It has decided to extend Japan an olive branch.
When Japan lifts economic sanctions against North Korea, it will also relax restrictions on "Association of Korean Residents in Japan" officials traveling between Korea and Japan. It will open a pipeline for bilateral political dialogue. Japan has also decided to relax restrictions. Millions of Koreans in Japan can now visit North Korea with cash or money transfers. North Korea has long been the target of international economic sanctions. It has a shortage foreign currency. This influx of capital will have a considerable impact. No wonder Kim Jong-un sees this as his biggest diplomatic breakthrough. This "heart to heart" exchange between Japan and North Korea is of course aimed squarely at the Chinese mainland.
In short, recent Beijing-Tokyo political wrangling over foreign policy was all about economic concessions for North and South Korea. South Korea's "best of both worlds" principle has opened up a gap in the U.S.'s "Asian rebalancing" policy. South Korea has seized the opportunity to get close to Mainland China. It has also accrued considerable economic benefits for itself. Progress on the STA, MTA, and other economic agreements remains stalled in the Legislative Yuan. Meanwhile, the Beijing-Seoul FTA leaps ahead, and cross-Strait economic development falls further and further behind.
Consider the United States' "Asian rebalancing" policy. The United States once signed military cooperation agreements with individual countries in order exert its influence in East Asia. The US-Japan, US-South Korea, and US-Philippines agreements were its three military pillars. But recently, in response to the rise of Mainland Chinese military power, the U.S. has turned toward strengthening horizontal cooperation among its three East Asian allies. The U.S. and South Korea, the US and Japan, and the US and the Philippines were once three points. These three points now define a plane. This is why Japan recent sold arms to the Philippines, and strengthened its partnership with the Philippine military.
The United States, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines are four allies. Currently the main problem is between Japan and South Korea. Japan and South Korea have historical grievances and territorial disputes. They find it difficult to cooperate. Soon after Park Geun-hye took office, he adopted a tough policy toward Japan. Japanese-Korean relations became strained. This left a major strategic gap in the U.S.'s return to Asia. It allowed Beijing to breakthrough and win over South Korea.
Secondly, cross-Strait economic relations have undergone a qualitative change. Since 2008, cross-Strait economic agreements have progressed much faster than FTAs between the Mainland and other countries. For example, the Mainland hoped that the STA and MTA could be signed by the end of the year, and the Mainland China-South Korea FTA signed next year. This would protect Taiwan businesses' competitive advantage in the Mainland market.
But lo and behold, the STA remains stalled in the legislature. MTA negotiations have been shelved. The Mainland's grand strategy to win over South Korea has accelerated FTA negotiations with South Korea. South Korean industry and our industry have a 60% overlap. If Mainland China and South Korea sign an agreement by the end of the year, Taiwan businesses on the Mainland will lose their competitive advantage.
Japan recently lifted its ban on collective self-defense, increasing Sino-Japanese tensions. The DPP assumed Japan would "protect" Taiwan, and secretly rubbed its hands in glee. But as everyone knows, the green camp has stalled the STA in the Legislative Yuan. Amidst the Sino-Japanese diplomatic tussle, Taiwan's economy has already been marginalized.
We would like to ask DPP leaders a question. Is this really cause for celebration, or is it cause for concern?
2014.07.07 02:09 am