It is well known that the two Koreas have co-existed in a state of mutual disdain for each other since the end of combat operations in the region, just over 60 years ago. North Korea, backed by China, and South Korea, backed by the U.S., have constantly perceived any military buildup performed by the other to be aggressions on their respective sovereignties. This usually results in the nation that feels threatened engaging in a retaliatory action involving some form of military posturing that escalates tensions in the region for a time.
The most recent example of this scenario occurred Monday, March 6. According to a report by The Guardian, North Korea fired four missiles in response to an annual military exercise between South Korean and American forces. Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the U.S. has begun the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Defense anti-missile system, otherwise known as THAAD, in South Korea as a defense against the North. The military exercises, firing of missiles, and installation of THAAD are causing tensions to rise drastically between the countries involved in the region. According to the same Reuters article mentioned above, the North and South have expelled each other’s diplomats and prohibited the exit of each other’s citizens. Furthermore, China and South Korea have now entered into a diplomatic standoff with each other, which even involves China closing down some of the South Korean Lotte Group’s retail stores.
All of these factors definitely make for a precarious situation among the four nations involved. However, it appears China is not yet ready to throw in the diplomatic towel. China has expressed frustrations with North Korea’s attempts at developing a nuclear missile program and has even halted the import of coal for a year in an effort to get the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
China has recently offered a possible diplomatic solution to this whole situation. The Associated Press reports that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has suggested that North Korea might stall its missile programs if the U.S.’s and South Korea’s military exercises are also stalled. It would seem that Wang and China would like for all the parties involved to sit down and discuss the issues between them. This offering by China may not only be a way to avoid conflict, it may also pave the way for a more peaceful co-existence in the region and provide the U.S. with the perfect opportunity to extricate itself permanently from the affairs of East Asia.
The U.S. has been presented with an amazing opportunity. Wang’s solution is brilliant, as it has not only North Korea, but also the South and the U.S. end their strategic posturing. This simple act would not only show that all countries involved are willing to come together and work out their differences peacefully, but may also be the only chance for the U.S. to begin pursuing a non-interventionist policy in East Asia.
China’s solution of having both sides halt their respective military activities would easily open the door to the lessening of hostilities in the region. With the lessening of hostilities, the next step would be to begin removing U.S. troops from the region in order to de-emphasize the threat a foreign army presents. This would establish an atmosphere where the work for peace could truly begin. This work toward peace should place emphasis on trade, for nations who are engaged in trade with one another are far less likely to go to war with one another.
Of course, the odds of North Korea accepting anything close to a peaceful solution are probably extremely long. However, this does not mean that the U.S. should not pursue the present opportunity. Any opportunity for peace, no matter how slim the chances, should never be ignored.
The U.S. military has been in and around the Korean Peninsula for over 60 years. Official policy is that U.S. troops are there to deter the North from invading the South. During that whole time, however, North Korea has done nothing more than isolate itself from the international community and act hostile to the presence of a foreign army near its borders. The interventionist policy of the U.S. is not working. North Korea will never be made less extreme by the military might of a foreign nation. The only way to accomplish that goal is through trade. The U.S. should significantly reduce its military presence in the region. Then, it should begin encouraging more trade in the area. China is already one of the U.S.’s largest trade partners. There is no reason to think that China would say no to more trade with the U.S. Plus, once the U.S. ended its military intervention in the region, China and South Korea would no longer have reason to remain in a diplomatic standoff. They would begin engaging in business with each other again. Soon, North Korea would either have to watch everyone around it prosper or end its isolationism in order to join in.
However, none of this will ever have the opportunity to happen if the U.S. and South Korea brushed aside China’s offer. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that they accept the offer for peaceful diplomacy. A peaceful solution must be sought, or we will see this opportunity slip away without another one in sight.
Libertarians everywhere would love to see the U.S. adopt a non-interventionist foreign policy. We all believe that such a policy would be ideal for this country. However, such a thing will not happen overnight. It will take liberty lovers pushing to slowly chip away bit by bit the interventionist policy of our leaders before our dream can be accomplished. Today, we have presented before us one such opportunity. Let us not allow it to go to waste.
Jon Swain is a recent convert to the liberty movement after becoming disillusioned with Republican politics in the 2016 election cycle. He is currently earning his B.S. in Kinesiology from Mississippi State University and plans to pursue a Master’s of Science after graduation.
Photo: Ed Jones
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