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China Poses Belt and Road Solution for Korea and Northeast Asia

July 18, 2017 (EIRNS)—A leading engineer professor in China has presented a powerful and optimistic proposal for solving the Korea crisis—through the New Silk Road. Called "Belt and Road Initiative [BRI], [it] meshes with South Korea’s Northern Policy," the op-ed in today’s Global Times is written by Ding Rongjun, Chairman of the Board of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a professor of diplomacy at Tongji University.

Ding notes that South Korean leaders since Park Chung-hee have promoted linking the country with Europe, but it is now both possible and urgent. The Belt and Road Initiative, he says, is "one way of achieving regional or even global peace, stability and cooperation among states." China and South Korea have the ability to "dial down emerging regional tensions" by "increasing the connectivity of Eurasia via the passageway of Busan-Pyongyang-Russia’s Far East-Central Asia and Europe."

He writes:

"From China’s perspective, such a plan has four major benefits. First, cooperation with Seoul can unleash the potential of China’s three northeastern provinces which need external stimuli for growth. Second, the plan can push North Korea’s reform by providing economic incentives and transportation and energy infrastructure, thereby creating a peaceful environment conducive for BRI’s successful implementation. Third, it can link with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union [EAEU] which is one of Putin’s key policies to develop its desolate Far East region, thereby alleviating Russia’s concerns over BRI. Fourth, cooperation with Seoul can reduce the risk of exacerbating security tensions on the Korean Peninsula, thereby altering the regional structure from a hostile balance of power to one of peace and order, where cooperation and non-competition become the norm. From South Korea’s standpoint, a trilateral framework with China and Russia toward North Korea’s opening and reform can be realized.

"Lastly, it is generally accepted in international politics that economic engagement and connectivity is conducive for peace. Creating momentum for such a spillover effect to take place on the Korean Peninsula is what China and South Korea can achieve via connecting the BRI and Northern Policy."

It is of note that the BRI has not played a significant role in East Asia, largely due to the North Korea problem. Now, although Ding does not mention it, the potential for China, Russia, South Korea and the United States under Trump to agree on a workable approach to the Korea problem now makes a BRI solution possible.