US-ROK joint military drills a double-edged sword
The five-day massive air combat drills, combined with the maritime drills in October conducted between the US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) clearly shows their purpose – to demonstrate the military capacity of this alliance against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Although a DPRK invasion of the ROK might not seem realistic, Pyongyang’s devotion to the missile and its nuclear program is perceived to be a real threat. While the possibility of pre-emptive strikes against the DPRK increases, the Pentagon has advised US dependents, spouses and children to move out of the ROK. Moreover, the Courageous Channel, an evacuation operation, was practiced recently at the US military bases in the ROK. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen dramatically.
Since the Korean War, the US military presence in the ROK has looked justifiable. However, the current situation in the ROK and DPRK are very different.
The logic of having more American troops in the region and intensifying military exercises is no longer looking as legitimate. Though the exercises are meant to stop Pyongyang from expanding its nuclear program, the reality is the opposite – DPRK's provocations are becoming more regular in response to the US' militaristic rhetoric.
The US-ROK joint military drills – the double-edged sword – provokes the DPRK to shield its sovereignty from any potential interference. Do the military drills help limit the DPRK from its nuclear program? The answer is no. It’s time to find solutions which might stabilize the situation well beyond Pyongyang and Seoul.
What might be done to decrease tensions and to secure the peninsula? The road-map aimed to solve the DPRK nuclear crisis has been already proposed by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov at the 8th Asian Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club in Seoul in late November. The road-map of stabilization on the peninsula is called “double freeze," and involves three steps.
First, the US and ROK should stop military exercises. In turn, the DPRK needs to freeze its nuclear program.
Secondly, the beginning of direct negotiations between the US and both the ROK and DPRK should be based on principles of peaceful coexistence. If direct negotiations are difficult to start, the mediation of another regional power, Russia, might be essential. Russia plays a unique historical role in the DPRK, maintains viable diplomatic negotiations and undoubtedly has access to the country's elites.
Finally, launching a long-term process of negotiation with wider involvement of countries and nations for the sake of stability and security in the region.
The idea of “double freeze” is not entirely new but an elaborated version of previous combined Russian-Chinese proposals that were approved during the summit between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in Moscow on July 4, 2017. The road-map is the best solution toward the peaceful coexistence. We might only hope that political and militaristic rhetoric will be put aside and common sense prevails.
Copyright © 2017 CGTN, 4 December 2017.