Ukraine War, Lula’s Peace Club and China

Ukraine War, Lula’s Peace Club and China

At the moment many events and state visits are taking place. After Scholz managed to get China to reject Russian nuclear threats during his visit to Beijing with Xi, he is now visiting Latin America and Lula, with the newly elected Brazilian president proclaiming that he wants to set up a peace club to end the Ukraine war as soon as possible – with himself and China, which still needs to be put under pressure, as chief negotiator and mediator.

 “Will the BRICS then also play a role? „Scholz in Brazil: Lula’s „Peace Club“ is supposed to end the war

At a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Brazil’s President Lula proposes a „peace club“ to end the Ukraine war. It’s not the only point where differences become apparent. After his talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva proposed the establishment of a „peace club“ to bring the war in Ukraine to a peaceful end. At the joint press conference in the Presidential Palace in Brasília on Monday evening, he said that this war was in nobody’s interests, that nobody knew what it would bring and when it would end. The war had reached a point where none of the belligerents would back down an inch. That is why he has already proposed to French President Emmanuel Macron and now to Scholz to found such a club of countries. For comparison, he cited the G 20. He also wants to propose this to US President Joe Biden at a meeting next week. It’s about finding a way out. He called on China to play a role in this process. „China now has to get involved.“

No European matter

After Argentina and Chile, the visit to Brasília is the last stop on Scholz’s first trip to Latin America. In Brazil, the focus should be on fighting climate change, renewable energies and protecting the rainforest, which Germany wants to help with. The federal government promised 200 million euros for this. At the press conference, Scholz also emphasized that the Ukraine war was not a European matter. The democracies around the world must stand together on this issue, there must be no return to the law of the strongest. Brazil has long been critical of the consequences of the war and the sanctions. However, under Lula’s predecessor Jair Bolsenaro, Brazil approved the United Nations resolutions condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine and later the annexation of territories. One of the goals of the Chancellor’s trip was to explain the German view of the war and German support for Ukraine in the countries visited. Like Brazil, Argentina and Chile have agreed to United Nations resolutions but have refused direct aid. Scholz thanked for the clear rejection of Russian aggression. In Brasília, Scholz said there was a „clear common position that we condemn the Russian attack“.

Lula, 77, spoke of a „classic mistake“ by Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the attack. However, he explained at length that he did not even understand exactly why this war started. Lula has previously been critical of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Now he did not repeat that, but quoted a Brazilian proverb with a view to the reason for the war: “If one person does not want to, two cannot argue.” Lula also clearly declined to sell ammunition for the cheetah, which Brazil owns. They have no interest in selling ammunition that could be used in the war. They also do not want any indirect participation in the war. Lula said: „We are a country that is committed to peace.“ Scholz emphasized that there would be no peace „over the heads of the Ukrainians“. The prerequisites for negotiations are that Russia „takes a step that involves the withdrawal of troops,“ he added. „I think we are very much in agreement in the world community.“ At the press conference, Scholz also expressed his delight that Lula was re-elected President, he has been back in office for almost a month. With a view to the riots that shook Brasília shortly after Lula’s inauguration, Scholz promised full solidarity. During the press conference, the President and Chancellor hugged each other twice.“

Yesterday, China still held the USA and NATO responsible for the Ukraine war and its escalation, in particular through arms deliveries, but Biden now declared that he did not want to deliver any F16s to Ukraine.

“Biden is clearly against fighter jet delivery

 Updated on 01/31/2023 06:26

President Joe Biden has spoken out against a delivery of fighter jets. French President Macron, on the other hand, does not rule this out in principle – but sets some conditions. After promising heavy battle tanks last week, the Ukrainian leadership is currently urging its western allies to supply fighter jets. Biden has now rejected this, thereby straightening out statements by his Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer. Meanwhile, France and Australia have agreed to jointly supply Ukraine with artillery ammunition. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen visited the south of the attacked country. And Kyiv continues to press for Russia to be banned from the Olympics. Barely a year after the start of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated the need for his country’s complete victory. „Russian terror must lose everywhere and in every respect: both on the battlefield and insofar as not a single ruin remains in our country,“ Zelenskyy said in his evening video address on Monday. „So that we can rebuild everything and prove that freedom is stronger.“

 Biden: US will not deliver F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

 The United States will not deliver F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, according to President Joe Biden. When asked by a reporter, „Will the US provide F-16s to Ukraine?“ Biden said „no“ in Washington Monday. So far, it has been said that the US government has not ruled out any particular weapon system and is aligning support with what Ukraine needs. It will be “discussed very carefully,” it said last Friday. French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, does not fundamentally rule out the delivery of combat aircraft to Ukraine. „In principle, nothing is forbidden,“ he said on Monday in The Hague when asked whether France might supply fighter jets to Ukraine. However, Macron set some conditions against which Ukrainian requests would be examined on a case-by-case basis: First, Kyiv would have to make an “official request”. In addition, the weapons should not have an escalating effect and should not touch Russian soil, but should only be used for defense. Nor should the French army be weakened by arms deliveries.

A signal for de-escalation and negotiations? Scholzing by Biden as already criticized by Ben Hodges in the case of the Abrahams? We will see what role the BRICS will play. And it remains to be seen whether, after the joint naval exercises between South Africa, China and Russia, Lula will now do the same in Brazil as part of the BRICS. Now it’s Putin’s turn not to launch a new offensive and destroy all negotiation efforts.

Former Gazprom advisor, Valdai Club member and Russia expert Dr. Alexander Rahr thinks that it’s not that far yet. He told Global Review: „The voices in Russia are increasing, also in the Kremlin (Patrushev, Shoigu, Narysckin, Surovikin), demanding a halt to the war. They see the coming superiority of western weapons. Not so Putin and Medvedev, they trust in the Wagner troops. They shall destroy Ukraine’s western arms imports.“

Nevertheless, some initiatives seem to be running behind the scenes to achieve at least certain symbolic goodwill signals. Although it remains unclear whether Dr. Rahr is now a sacked expert for the Russians or there are still wires to Russia, he is now also involved alongside the Bismarck Club and the Eurasian Club in matters of a possible release of Navalny, although many experts believe that the probability of this is very low:

“Berlin’s Chance and the Power of Informal Diplomacy

While Navalny’s associates are drawing attention to his fate with the help of the recently launched Free Navalny action, there is a chance to get the Russian politician out of prison thanks to informal diplomacy, says German political scientist Alexander Rahr. “I have repeatedly said on German television and even before the war that there is such an opportunity and it should be used. I am surprised that the German side has not yet taken advantage of such opportunities,” said DW Rahr, who worked for a long time in the German Foreign Policy Society ( DGAP), and before the war he advised Gazprom.

At the same time, the political scientist knows what he is talking about: 10 years ago he was on the same team with a veteran of German politics, the late ex-Foreign Minister of Germany Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who personally met with Vladimir Putin for the sake of release Mikhail Khodorkovsky – ex-oligarch and another opponent of Putin. In December 2013, thanks to the efforts of informal German diplomacy, Khodorkovsky was pardoned and was able to leave Russia.

To replicate that success, several preconditions must be met, says Rahr, who knows the Russian president personally. First of all, the consent of Alexei Navalny himself to such a step is required: “Khodorkovsky, by the way, did not want to leave Russia for a long time, and then, when his mother really became seriously ill and was in Germany for treatment, he agreed to go to her.”

Rahr calls another condition the need for Navalny’s request for pardon. “He (Hans-Dietrich Genscher. – Ed.) spoke with Putin several times, and Putin always said: “Why do you need this oligarch, this criminal element in Germany?” And Genscher answered correctly, it seems to me, very diplomatically: “Mr. President, I don’t know what he actually did, it’s none of my business. Have mercy on him, because you have the opportunity to do it for humanitarian reasons. In the end, Putin went for it.”

Unlike Rahr, another German political scientist, director of the Russian program at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Alexei Yusupov, doubts the likelihood of new such negotiations. But the guarantee that such negotiations can take place at all is the humanitarian nature of the release of Alexei, Yusupov believes.

“Both in Germany and in the European Union, Navalny is considered a possible legitimate alternative to the current leaders of Russia, Khodorkovsky was not one. Yes, there was an understanding that he was a political prisoner, that he was sitting unfairly and that he had a personal enmity with Vladimir Putin, but it was humanitarian gesture. It was not a gesture in any way connected with the politics of Berlin, Brussels, Washington. And with Navalny it would look completely different at the moment,” Yusupov comments.

But it would also need a heavyweight negotiator. Since Genscher is no longer alive, some hope for Angela Merkel. But all in all it is still very speculative and more of a daydream at the moment.

The role of the Asians in the Ukraine war  is also interesting. First it remains to be seen if China wants to join Lula´s Peace Club. Then what the leading powers in Asia Japan, India and South Korea will do, but let´s focus on East Asia.

South Korea is delivering 200 Black Panthers to Poland and after Germany, MTU and Rheinmetall and France have withdrawn, Hyundai is now producing the new Panzer Attay with the Turks based on the Black Panther model, the latter consisting of a mixture of German, US and South Korean technology . In addition, Turkish troops fought in the Korean War and there are still nostalgic memories. ( Erdogan is quite a sly fox. With his announcement that he wants to agree to NATO membership for Finland but not for Sweden, he meets both Putin and the USA and NATO halfway, the offended sultan who was embarrased by  the Erdogan puppet Kurdish activists were hanging in front of the Turkish embassy in Sweden can save his face and  pose as a defender of Islam against the burning of the Koran by a Danish right-wing extremist who has a Swedish passport, and he also will keep Sweden as a negotiating pawn and leverage against Putin and NATO in an upcoming conflict over the Aegean Islands on the 100th anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty and the founding of the Attaürk Republic in reserve).Here a more detailed article and a good overview of the historical role of South Korea and the ever-increasing dovetailing of the Ukraine conflict with Asia and South Korea:

“The stunning rise of South Korea as a defender of Ukraine

Becoming one of Europe’s leading weapon suppliers not only boosts the global stature of South Korea’s defence industry, but it has also other political and security implications for Asia.

Jonathan Eyal

Global Affairs Correspondent

Since the Ukraine war started, South Korea’s annual defence exports have reached a historical record of US$17 billion. 

At the start of World War II, then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously vowed that America would become the “great arsenal of democracy”, by which he meant that the US stood ready to supply weapons to every nation fighting at that time against Nazi Germany.

In the current Ukraine war, the Americans are still fulfilling this critical rule; notwithstanding the efforts of the Europeans, the US remains the most significant single supplier of weapons and ammunition to the Ukrainian military presently fighting to repel the Russian invasion.

But the Americans are now increasingly supported by another emerging “great arsenal”: the arms manufacturers of South Korea.

Since the Ukraine war started in February 2022, South Korea’s annual defence exports have reached a historical record of US$17 billion (S$22.3 billion), up from a mere US$7.2 billion a year before. And more, much more, is in the offing.

The meteoric rise of South Korea’s defence industry due to the Ukraine conflict will have broader security implications. And it is perfect evidence that the war in Europe also profoundly affects the Asian continent.

The stunning achievement of South Korea’s defence products was not built in a day; it resulted from about half a century of hard work and innovation. Particularly over the past two decades, Seoul has pursued wide-ranging reforms to strengthen its local defence industry’s global competitiveness by investing substantial resources into defence-related research and development.

In the early post-World War II period, Washington provided the South Korean army with equipment. But with the Vietnam War, South Korea became the rear base for the production of equipment for US troops.

How it started

Dozens of industrial groups and their sub-contractors have developed know-how by producing equipment for the US under a licence. For example, the Hanhwa group, now one of the country’s most prominent defence conglomerates, started as a humble producer of largely generic TNT explosives.

But in a country where almost every political choice or option is profoundly and passionately contested, developing an indigenous defence industry is one of the rarest topics of national consensus, embraced by both left-wing and right-wing politicians.

This is partly due to the persistent threat from North Korea, but is also supported by a national drive to become autonomous in producing weapons.

The bitter experience of the 1980s, when the US refused to supply tanks to protect leading-edge American weapon technologies, is well remembered in Seoul. The longstanding strategy of all South Korean governments was to reduce dependency on arms imports and, above all, those produced by the protecting power, the US.

The large domestic armaments market also facilitated the plan to develop an indigenous defence industry. To defend itself against the threat from the communist North, South Korea, with its 51 million inhabitants, maintains an army of around 600,000 soldiers, the eighth-largest standing armed force in the world. By comparison, Japan, with 126 million inhabitants, has only 246,000 professional soldiers.

South Korea also devotes around 2.6 per cent of its gross domestic product to the military, about double the defence expenditure of Japan or Germany, Europe’s wealthiest nation. And Seoul is mindful of how it directs its defence purchases. In 2006, procurement policies for the army, air force and navy were centralised in one authority to prevent overlapping orders and increase coordination between the military and industry.

And after taking office in 2017, left-wing President Moon Jae-in elevated the promotion of South Korea’s arms exports to an art form by turning every foreign trip into a promotional event for South Korean war equipment.

For example, he returned from his trip to Australia at the end of 2021 with a deal for 30 indigenously produced K9 howitzers. And a month later, he engineered the first sale of the Cheongung-2 missile defence system to the United Arab Emirates.

From subs to fighter jets

South Korea’s arms sales have grown not only in volume but also in range. Warships, submarines, air defence platforms and an array of electronic warfare and communication systems are all in the inventory. So is the KF-21, South Korea’s first home-grown fighter jet that flew for the first time in July 2022, making the country one of the few nations to have developed an advanced supersonic fighter, albeit one with engines imported from the US.

And the corresponding rise in global stature was not slow to come. Two decades ago, South Korea ranked only 31st in the international league of weapon exporters. Now, it has risen to eighth place, and President Yoon Suk-yeol, the country’s current leader, sounds perfectly credible when he promises that South Korea will become the fourth-biggest weapons seller by the time he leaves office in 2027.

The war in Ukraine is not, therefore, the immediate explanation for the rise of South Korea’s arms manufacturers; the country’s defence exports rose by a cumulative 177 per cent over the five years preceding the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Nonetheless, the conflict in Ukraine represents a historic baptism of fire, when South Korea finally stood up as a significant global defence manufacturer, and the world took serious notice.

Restocking Nato’s arsenal

In conquering armaments markets, South Korea used an old recipe that had already worked in shipbuilding and the electronics industry: good quality at lower prices. But in the case of Ukraine, these basic principles were supplemented by two huge additional advantages: a sizeable ready-made inventory of weapons and the ability to deliver more weapons in a relatively short period.

The Ukraine war unleashed a rearmament frenzy throughout Europe as countries boosted their defence expenditures and rushed to acquire new weapons. It also shocked Western military planners, who didn’t have the necessary ammunition stocks for the lengthy high-intensity warfare in Ukraine, the sort of war nobody thought would ever return to Europe.

To give just one example of the current Western predicament, Ukraine’s armed forces are firing around 90,000 artillery rounds every month, about double what all the members of Nato, the US-led military alliance, currently produce. Of course, US and European defence manufacturers are now expanding their production lines. Nonetheless, South Korea’s ability to supply weapons is considered a lifesaver for the West.

Russian response

The South Korean role in supporting the West’s side in Ukraine has not gone unnoticed in Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned South Korea about sending ammunition to Ukraine: “We have learnt that the Republic of Korea has decided to supply weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. This will destroy our relations,” Mr Putin said in 2022.

“How would the Republic of Korea react if we resumed cooperation with North Korea in that sphere?” the Russian leader added in a pointed threat to Seoul.

But it’s an open secret that the Russians are already tapping North Korea to replenish Moscow’s depleted arsenals; over the past few days, US intelligence sources have released several photographs indicating North Korean weapon transfers to the so-called Wagner Group of state-sponsored Russian mercenaries now fighting in Ukraine.

And there are ways to mask South Korea’s deliveries of weapons. The South Korean-manufactured artillery shells now being sold to the Americans are to be delivered “under the premise that the US will be the final user”, says a communique issued in Seoul. Undoubtedly correct, but largely irrelevant: The US may place the South Korean shells in its warehouses and release all the US-made ones for the war in Ukraine.

The same applies to the massive contract – worth US$15 billion – that South Korea concluded with Poland. This – the most significant single deal ever won by Korean arms manufacturers – includes both tanks and fighter jets and, again, all are supposedly not to be sent to Ukraine. Yet, as everyone knows, the South Korean weapons are designed to replace weapons Poland has supplied and continues to transfer to Ukraine.

But the long-term strategic implications of such deals will prove enduring and significant.

The penetration of South Korea’s defence manufacturers into Europe’s mature military markets will last beyond the Ukraine war.

Beyond the war in Ukraine

A South Korean K2 Black Panther tank at the port in Gdynia, Poland, after the first shipment of tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers were delivered on Dec 6, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

The K2 tanks Poland bought are already being delivered, creating a longer-term military-industrial relationship. And the FA-50 fighter jets South Korea will be supplying to Poland could be attractive to other European countries as well, for they cost less than half of an entry-level American F-35 fighter jet.

Such military deals also generate political dependencies. South Korea’s international footprint is growing, prompting European governments to take a closer look at the security situation in the Korean peninsula, which is precisely what every government in Seoul has always aspired to achieve.

And becoming one of Europe’s leading weapons suppliers boosts South Korea’s standing with the US when fateful choices are looming about how Washington proposes to deal with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Just as importantly, the South Koreans are not only supplying weapons to Europe; they are also keen watchers and learners of the current European war, viewing it as a possible model for future power struggles in East Asia – especially in the context of an increasing rivalry between the US and China.

Some of the lessons from the war are already being digested in Seoul. These relate in particular to the vital role technologies initially developed without explicit military applications in mind – such as drones, mobile phones and space communications – have come to play in the Ukraine war, alongside conventional weaponry such as missiles, tanks, and artillery.

The South Koreans are also interested in how ordinary Ukrainian civilians initially working in their country’s private sector are now assisting the Ukrainian military.

As a result of observing developments in Ukraine’s war, South Korea’s top planners are already proposing to overhaul their military priorities by removing the rigid divisions between military and civilian research programmes. In short, the Ukraine war is not only boosting South Korea’s defence industries, it is also transforming these industries into better fighting machines.

The worst European conflict since World War II will continue to reverberate well beyond the boundaries of that continent. And the longer it lasts, the more profound will be its global impact.”

In addition, Japan is now also very actively involved in Ukraine, Kishida wants to visit Kyiv soon and the next G7 meeting is to take place in Hiroshima. Meanwhile, as already mentioned, Lula announced a peace club and Brazil’s active mediating role during Scholz’s visit, whereby he primarily wants to take China on board, which, however, blamed the USA for the Ukraine war and its escalation. Interestingly, Biden has now refused F16 deliveries to Ukraine. Scholzing by Biden this time, as Ben Hodges said with the Abrahams. Is there movement towards negotiations? If Putin doesn’t destroy everything with a new offensive. But can China be interested in a quick end to the Ukraine war and act as a mediator with Lula? Maybe because the Ukraine war has global effects, also on the world economy and the formation of blocs, and China is therefore looking for a solution and general relaxation? In view of Stoltenberg and Austin’s Asia tour, Beijing fears that the bloc conflict will now also come to Asia, although it is actually already there. Or maybe even more when the Ukraine war ends, since the USA can then turn to the Asian Pivot and China?

“NATO chief visits Asia, intends to bring ‘bloc-to-bloc confrontation in Europe’ to region

By Yang Sheng

Published: Jan 30, 2023 10:06 PM

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference ahead of the alliance's Defence Ministers' meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 15, 2022. Photo: AFP

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference ahead of the alliance’s Defence Ministers‘ meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 15, 2022. Photo: AFP

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began separate visits to Asia recently, leaving Chinese analysts concerned about the strategic purpose of these visits. They believed that the US and NATO are trying to bring to Asia the „bloc-to-bloc confrontation,“ which has already led to military conflicts in Europe, and warned that the US intends to use its allies in the region to contain China and disrupt regional integration and economic recovery by spreading their dangerous „Cold War mentality.“  

Stoltenberg, who is visiting South Korea and will also visit Japan on this trip, said at an event in Seoul on Monday that although China is not NATO’s adversary, it has come „much higher“ on NATO’s agenda, citing China’s growing military capabilities and „coercive behavior in the region,“ Reuters reported. 

„We believe that we should engage with China on issues like arms control, climate change and other issues,“ he said. „But at the same time, we are very clear that China poses a challenge to our values, to our interests, and to our security.“

Mao Ning, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, responded to a question related to the NATO chief’s remarks at Monday’s routine press conference, saying that „On the one hand, NATO claims that its status as a ‚regional defensive alliance‘ has not changed, but on the other hand, it continues to break through its traditional defense zones, and expands and strengthens its military security ties. Such related movements should arouse the vigilance of regional countries,“ Mao said.  

„We also hope that NATO can abandon its Cold War mentality and the concept of bloc-to-bloc confrontation, and do more things to benefit the security and stability of Europe and the world. We hope that countries in the region can stick to the right path of Asia-Pacific cooperation and work to maintain and promote world peace, stability, development and prosperity,“ Mao noted.

Chinese analysts said that since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict last year, NATO’s ambition of expansion has been boosted and strengthened, as the US-led military organization is seeking more influence outside the North Atlantic region. 

In Europe, continued NATO expansion eventually resulted in a tragedy that is seriously damaging Russia and the EU, which are both competitors of the US in different fields, so in Asia, the US is planning to copy this model to provoke the same „bloc-to-bloc confrontation“ to contain China, and also weaken the region’s economic development potential, which would not only be dangerous for China, but also pose a threat to all countries in the region, experts warned. 

China and the majority of Asian countries will have the wisdom and capability to avoid the tragedy which has already befallen in Europe, and withstand the disruption from external forces, experts noted.

Being vigilant 

US defense chief Austin also began a trip to South Korea and the Philippines on Sunday, a move that Chinese experts viewed as Washington’s latest effort to beef up military integration targeting China in the western Pacific, especially with the cost-effective way of using „allies“ as its disposable pawns and vanguards.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Monday that the US and NATO are bringing „strategic impact“ to the regions around China, which is very dangerous, as „these activities are intended to end more than 30 years of peace and prosperity enjoyed by Asia since the end of the Cold War.“ 

The Asia-Pacific region has remained peaceful in past decades despite multiple problems that could potentially break out, such as the Korean Peninsula issue, the Taiwan question, the South China Sea issue, and the China-Japan tension in the East China Sea. 

 The key reason is that China has enough strength to deter military intervention from external forces, and regional countries are willing to solve problems via consultation, experts said. 

The US is trying to break this balance by hyping the „China threat theory“ and the Cold War mentality, and regional countries should work together to oppose such attempts, analysts said. Fortunately, most regional countries are fully aware of this danger, and are making efforts with China to withstand the potential threat by boosting regional integration, experts noted. 

Before Austin’s arrival, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said to the Financial Times at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this month that he ruled out the reopening of the former US military bases of Subic Bay and Clark, saying it was against his country’s constitution to allow foreign bases on its soil.

Marcos visited China at the very beginning of this year, reaching agreements and achieving fruitful outcomes with China in fields including economy, trade, agriculture, and people-to-people exchanges, as well as infrastructure construction. The Philippines is a country that has learnt a bitter lesson of being used by the US to contain China, and its decision-making has reflected the vigilance shared by most regional countries on bloc-to-bloc confrontation, experts said. 

From the Korean Peninsula to Southeast Asia, many countries such as Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, all share bitter memories of US military presence and activities in their territories, and they know what will happen if the region falls into the Cold-War style bloc-to-bloc confrontation again, analysts said. 

Li said it’s crucial that China and its regional partners work together to boost regional integration, because once a community with a shared future in the region has been built, there will be no room for external forces to make trouble, and it’s also important for China to promote negotiations on a code of conduct related to maritime disputes in the region with other countries, so that they can effectively avoid conflict and miscalculation. 

Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday that „NATO is a key tool that is used by the US to serve its hegemony, so it’s important for China to make diplomatic efforts to let regional countries, especially its neighbors, understand that NATO is a military organization driven by a Cold War mentality, and it could bring tensions and problems.“

Relevant countries in the region should not stand too close with the organization, nor should they become pawns used by the US to undermine regional peace and stability, and making sure a tragedy like the Russia-Ukraine crisis will not happen in Asia is a duty shared by all regional countries, Song noted.

China fears that NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg’s offer of nuclear intelligence sharing to Japan and South Korea is just a pretext to get both and other Asian states into an expanded NATO framework, at the end of which there might be a kind of Global NATO like in the 1990s contemplated by Ivo Daalder. China and North Korea also see Japan’s new defense strategy, which no longer wants to turn Japan’s SDF into a shield, but now into a spear with its new counterstrike capabilities and repeal of the pacifist post-war constitution, as well as South Korea’s more offensive course against China and North Korea, including the kill-chain doctrine directed against them, as well as the resumption of US-South Korean maneuvers, which were suspended under Trump and the Pelosi visit, and the training of Taiwanese troops by the US National Guard as further provocations, especially since North Korea has now resumed missile tests that have accelerated its nuclear armament program, has already sent drones across the inner-Korean border, has joined forces even more closely with China and Russia and China is suspected of increasing its ICBM contingents from 250 to 1000-1500 in addition to its already ongoing armament in order to become a nuclear power on an equal footing with Russia and the United States. China is still appealing to South Korea not to swallow NATO’s „nuclear bait“.

“NATO throws ‘nuclear bait’ to South Korea: Global Times editorial

By Global Times Published: Jan 31, 2023 12:03 AM

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a conversation at Chey Institute in Seoul on January 30, 2023. Photo: AFP

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a conversation at Chey Institute in Seoul on January 30, 2023. Photo: AFP

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg started his visit to South Korea and Japan on Sunday, but the „gifts“ he brings with him aren’t good. During his trip to South Korea, he mainly discussed issues related to North Korea. He said that the visit demonstrated „the increased importance of the partnership between NATO and the Republic of Korea.“ He also mentioned that NATO and South Korea can share information with each other in response to doubts caused by North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. Besides, Stoltenberg further touted about the importance of nuclear deterrence before his trip, claiming if „China, Russia and North Korea have nuclear weapons, but NATO allies do not – that’s a more dangerous world.“

Obviously, Stoltenberg eyed wider. NATO’s existing nuclear sharing mechanism has nothing to do with the security issues on the Korean Peninsula. It has to bring China and Russia along so that its appearance on the Korean Peninsula will not seem that abrupt and will not arouse the South Korea’s vigilance. Stoltenberg cited „nuclear threat“ from China, Russia, and North Korea to strengthen information sharing with South Korea. His purpose is very clear, that is, to draw South Korea into the cooperation framework of NATO. Nuclear sharing is just an excuse with which NATO’s grip can be extended to Northeast Asia in an imposing manner.

Although on the highly sensitive issue of nuclear sharing, Stoltenberg reserved some leeway in his public statements, the outside world generally believes that the „information sharing“ he proposed will not be the end of NATO’s involvement in the Asia-Pacific. Some analyses from South Korea pointed out that NATO’s move is intended to echo the US and expand its activity area to the „Indo-Pacific“ region to contain China. Although NATO claims that its positioning as a regional defensive alliance has not changed, since last year, it has continued to break traditional defense zones and areas and greatly strengthened military and security ties with Asia-Pacific countries such as Japan and South Korea. Now Stoltenberg is standing on the soil of Northeast Asia, talking about „nuclear deterrence“ in such a high-profile manner, which highlights the serious threat NATO poses to this region.

The stalemate on the Korean Peninsula and NATO are two remnants of the Cold War in Eurasia, but the former is a victim of the Cold War, while the latter is a beneficiary. After the end of the Cold War, NATO lost the necessity and legitimacy of existence, but it survived by sucking the tense and terrifying atmosphere caused by new crises and conflicts. The reason why NATO has set its sights on the Korean Peninsula is just like hyenas staring at the bleeding wounds of other animals. What it brings to Northeast Asia is the drumbeat of a new cold war.

It is very popular in the US and the West to use the Ukraine crisis as a „security textbook“ to sell security fears everywhere, and Stoltenberg’s trip is no exception. However, what happened on the European continent just shows that once there is a security dilemma, even allies will turn against each other, and this knot will become tighter and tighter. In fact, this has a similar underlying logic to the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The North and the South used to „arm themselves“ out of their respective security concerns, which in turn deepened the other side’s concerns. What has happened on the peninsula in recent years has already proved that hostility and confrontation can never be the messengers of peace. This is crystal clear. 

We have noticed that although Stoltenberg always „intentionally or unintentionally“ mentioned China when he unilaterally talked about the „threat“ from North Korea, the South Korean side seemed to be relatively low-key about it. In Stoltenberg’s meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, as well as with the defense and foreign ministers, the South Korean side avoided talking about China as much as possible. This shows that South Korea’s security concerns so far are still mainly focused on the peninsula issue, but South Koreans need to take more precautions against the calculative NATO. The accelerated extension of NATO from Europe to Northeast Asia will only make the situation on the peninsula more complicated and difficult to resolve, and the result is by no means what South Korea wants to see.

South Korea’s national stability and economic development today are inseparable from the long-term relative peace and stability on the peninsula. The Hankyoreh pointed out soberly in a commentary, „NATO’s nuclear sharing is not about owning or sharing usage rights to nuclear weapons, but a means of sharing the political burden and operational risks.“ The „nuclear bait“ brought about by NATO is definitely poison rather than a cure for South Korea, which pursues a safe and stable external environment. Today, NATO’s intention to get involved in the Asia-Pacific is well known. How to refuse to „drink poison to quench thirst“ will test Seoul’s political wisdom.

A report analyzed that while the USA  always claims that it would raise its arms expenditure in the Asian pivot, that untill now this was not the case, but that the USA would compensate this by alliances and the increased military expenditure of their allies.  In addition to the military arms race between China/ Northkorea and  Japan and South Korea and the military position of the later two, China expert Professor van Ess commented on their economic positions and possible implications:

„It’s interesting that the Japanese, who really aren’t friends of the Chinese government, don’t like to be pressured by the US in economic terms. The media reports that they have taken a harder line with the Netherlands (ASML) and the USA on the chip suppliers, but no real agreement can be seen. Japan is in the same position as Germany: these sanctions are hitting its own economy hard, and the Japanese are obviously considering if they really want to playi this game. It’s the same with Korea. Of course, Korea’s recovery is also very closely linked to that of China, and if you stall China’s economy, it will backfire on you.”

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