Sun, Mar 09, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Taiwan can help quell N Korea

The US and Iraq are on the brink of a war. North Korea seizes the opportunity to provoke the world's superpower. At a time like this, the international community seems to have forgotten the potential role that Taiwan can play in all this -- the "key stabilizing factor" amidst the tense standoff in Northeast Asia.

The international community may not realize one thing. Of all the Asian countries, Taiwan is probably the one with which North Korea has the most friendly relationship. During the past half century, Taiwan has neither gained enmity with North Korea nor gotten into any dispute with the country. The bilateral relationship is a blank page.

The only potential friend North Korea has in Asia is Taiwan. South Korea was of course at war with North Korea. As for Japan, it colonized the Korean Peninsula for 36 years. China is the "big brother" to which North Korea feels distrust. North Korea began to take an interest in Taiwan in the 1980s, when Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) said China should learn from Taiwan's economy. By the early 1990's, North Korea was curious about the ability of the "Chiang dynasty" in Taiwan to have family succession of power without jeopardizing political stability.

Besides, just like Taiwan, North Korea also has a collective feeling that it has been abandoned by old friends. Around 1992, it began interacting with Taiwan. The substantive exchanges ceased not long after as a result of the international pressure to carry out nuclear weapon inspections in North Korea. Later, when Taiwan tried to extend a helping hand in the North Korean famine or invest in the country, it had to back off due to international pressure.

North Korea feels cornered by the US and its closest allies. The only thing that will come out of all this is more bad behavior such as escalation of threats and intimidation on the part of North Korea. This can only heighten tension in Northeast Asia. What good does it do to anyone?

It is of course unacceptable for North Korea to develop and proliferate nuclear arms and threaten its neighbors. But, the entire region will risk extreme consequences if this country's leadership is driven to madness.

Containment by the US is reciprocated with resistance and threats on the part of North Korea. Why not try persuasion? Have North Korea befriend Taiwan, a neighbor to which it feels trust and goodwill. Allow Taiwan to help piece back the collapsed economy of North Korea. Once the North Korean economy begins to thrive, all the neighboring countries will benefit. China will be rid of a dangerous time bomb in its backyard. North Korea was once considered a buffer zone between China and South Korea. But, in the post-Cold-War era, this buffer has become a weighty load that drags down China.

At a time when China's influence over North Korea is declining, the international community should not expect China to be able to play its old role with North Korea. In turn, China should abandon its old way of thinking, and lead North Korea onto the path of "normal" countries and interact with the international community pursuant to the common values and protocol they have established. As for the potential role that Taiwan can play with North Korea, China must not obstruct.

In the past decade, the repetition of the tense military melodrama proves that containment does not work with North Korea. When all the keys in the hands of the UN-member countries couldn't open the door of peace on the Korean Peninsula, why not try a new key -- Taiwan? In the post-cold-war era, new thinking, innovations and new approaches are needed in international relations.

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