Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why the United States should ‘lead from behind’ in East Asia

A unique assessment.  I am sure that whomever in the Obama Administration coined the term leading from behind regrets it as it is fodder for political opponents.  However, I am not sure that a "tri-lateral" negotiation with the US, China, and north Korea is "leading from behind."  

While I think the Kim Family Regime is always receptive to "carrots" it is very unlikely that it will reciprocate.  In six decades the north has broken virtually every agreement it has ever entered into.  If the north was serious it should honor the 1992 Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression,  and Exchanges (ARNE) it made with the Republic of Korea.  Let's offer that agreement up as the start point for negotiations since it has already been signed we should implement.  I am sure that President Park's policy of "trustpolitik" would support implementation of the agreement and the ROK would surely live up to its part of the agreement.  Could we expect north Korea to do the same?

Leading from behind?  Let's let north Korea deal with South Korea and have the Koreas take the lead in bringing their civil war to a conclusion.  But the ball is in the north's court because every country in the region including Russia, China, Japan, the ROK, and the US have lived up to their ends of agreements until the north broke theirs.  

Why the United States should ‘lead from behind’ in East Asia
March 23rd, 2013
Author: Jeong Lee, Pusan
In the United States, the much-dreaded budget cuts known as the sequester went into effect on 1 March 2013.

Despite Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s gloomy assessment that cuts to the defence budget will ‘harm military readiness and disrupt each and every investment program’, the sequester will neither cripple America’s geopolitical strategy nor its ability to project its hard power abroad.
But the Obama administration should still seriously rethink its ‘pivot’ strategy in Asia in light of the drastic budget cuts. The United States has a vital role to play in the region as a stabilising force, but America’s new pivot strategy must reflect geopolitical realities. The United States should focus on ‘leading from behind’ by prioritising cooperation with other regional powers and by exercising leadership in a more indirect manner.

The Pentagon has already readjusted its priorities through its recent military involvement in Africa. The Pentagon’s official position is that it is merely seeking to monitor terror threats in Northern Africa. Yet some analysts believe that the United States is trying to counter China’s trade and investment in Africa, which currently outstrips its own. If this is the case, such moves are unlikely to help America’s Asia pivot. This is partly because, according to Gen. David Rodriguez, the incoming commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the United States already hastrouble meeting its logistical needs in Africa. But more importantly, America’s covert attempts to contain China’s influence in Africa may backfire by provoking the Chinese into taking countermeasures. There are already some indications that Beijing has interpreted French intervention in Mali as a gateway for further Western intervention.
Thus, in order to achieve stability in East Asia and elsewhere around the globe, the United States should first seek to lead from behind by cooperating with China. Most importantly, the United States should pursue a trilateral dialogue with Beijing to ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula. This may provide insight into Chinese assessments of North Korean political stability, which will be particularly importantin light of signs that Beijing may have shifted its policy on North Korea’s nuclear testing since its latest launch.

The United States should also consider formally recognising the DPRK as a sovereign state. Despite opposition from hardliners and the fact that the DPRK has proven to be anything but predictable, normalisation may help to avert a costly, fratricidal war between two Koreas. It would also ease South Korea’s economic burden by fostering trade with the North, and it would help to turn Kim Jong-un away from China by keeping him accountable to international norms. US basketballer Dennis Rodman’s visit to Pyongyang in late February showed that Kim Jong-un may respond positively to carrots.
(Continued at the link below)

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