Professor Varaprasad; Chairman of CEAS, Professor Kondapalli, Dr. Rajen Shing Leushran, Prof. Madhu Bhalla, Ladies and gentlemen, It is a great pleasure for me to brief my thesis at this time. I would like to thank all the Professors and students here for kind attendance at this meeting. My thesis is a study about China-South Korea Security Forum. The Forum was initiated by two civil institutions of China and South Korea in year 2000. An innovative civil approach for people’s security interest between China and South Korea has been developed into an Annual Security Forum involving participation of high-ranking incumbent and retired officials from both countries.
This civil Security Forum was created through the process of overcoming the government failures of rigid and partisan decision making in the security area. If the governments had the structural and situational limits to ensure the peoples’ security interests, civil communities may have to do some role to complement these limitations of the state for protecting the people’s security interest. If governments are obsessed with such as the order of the Cold War or ancient regime to make a rigid policy decision making, then the violations of people’s security interests could be a serious problem.
This civil to civil Security Forum has played such a role in providing an important network for the cooperation and confidence-building of security specialists and for the exchange of security information between China and South Korea. As an attempt to facilitate and to improve relationship between China and South Korea, the Security Forum organised several rounds of formal and informal meetings with the participation of significant policy makers from both countries. The Forum has brought various issues into debate and found solutions, which has been reported to both governments and intelligent agencies.
So my thesis as a case study of this security forum has tried to explain the different function of civil-to-civil diplomacy compared to that of government-to-government diplomacy. Diplomatic activities are conducted in the dimension of government level and wide comprehensive civilian level. The Security Forum as a civil-to-civil diplomacy has contributed the enhancement of the relations between both countries making common ground on sensitive issues that requires higher understanding between China and South Korea.
In regards to diplomacy, Governments tend to be confined due to political interests or populism, and sometimes become more aggressive than the situation required. So Higher level of understanding, here, means that they care the interests of the people, the genuine interests of the countries not the political factions, long-term perspectives rather than the immediate political interests and the healthy foundation for progressive relations. Through this civilian forum, We could support the limitations of governments and pursue higher level understanding between both countires beyond the old order and existing alliances.
The current relation between China and South Korea now is strategically and economically animated compared to any other moment in the history of the relation. However this was not true right after the normalisation of the relation in 1992. Even after the normalisation, diplomacy between the governments of China and South Korea was restrained due to their strategic relations with North Korea and the U.S. respectively.
As one of diplomatic platforms, the security Forum has enjoyed strong advantage that Government diplomacy could not accomplish. With the pressure of exposure in news media and wrong assessment, as mentioned Government diplomacy tends to be confined within strong formalities. So This civilian talk lessened the exposure of detail of communication, simultaneously spread over political bodies, academia and military brains by conference participants. What Chinese government cannot do considering North Korea, and what Korean government cannot do considering the U.S. are to be done through this channel China-South Korea Security Forum.
The first hypothesis of the thesis was ‘China-South Korea Security Forum has contributed to the improvement of the bilateral security relations between China and South Korea to the extent that both countries exchange military personnel in their training academy and regular minister level– meetings.’ As studied in the thesis, military exchanges between the two countries have become more active since the Security Forum started in June 2002. Military exchanges between the two countries before and after the Security Forum have been tabled up in the thesis. For example the reciprocal visits of Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff has increased five times, Army, Navy and Air Force Chief of Staff has doubled and Military Personnel’s in training increased by four times.
The second hypothesis of the study was ‘China-South Korea Security Forum has provided alternative 1.5-track policy process to existing 1.0-track level relation.’ The thesis has clarified how much the Security Forum as the 1.5 track dialogue contributed to the promotion of 1.0-track level relations between China and South Korea. The Security Forum provided a significant opportunity for both countries to understand each other’s interests during the conferences and additional events. Each institute reported the result of the forum to their own authorities, and the sources and information from the forum were utilised by each country’s practitioners and experts.
Before the forum the interaction between China and South Korea was stagnated by the continuity of the rigid Cold War mentality. After the forum the channels of communication between the two countries has become more flexible and various. The forum as a civil channel has helped to breakaway the continuity of the Cold War logic and brought about a new paradigm of relations. The forum has played the role of, so called icebreaking for both countries. Among Chinese neighbours, there are countries that experienced historical disputes, conflicts, and even war like situations. The study about this Forum could provide some example of civilian level communications with China to countries that pursue improvement in the relationship with her.
In regards to the attitude towards Northeast Asia security system of China and South Korea, it was meaningful to point out that there were more commonalities than differences. First, two countries opposed North Korean nuclear programme. Second, they agreed that the Korean peninsula should be peacefully unified by two Koreas. Thirdly, upsurge of military conflict should be restricted in the region. Lastly, they all wished that North Korea should develop itself through stable process, reform and opening-up. These commonalities in strategic directions of China and South Korea were mutually agreed by former Korean Defence Minister Cho Sungtae; the chief member of this Fourm and former Chinese Defence Minister Chi Haitian, and reassured at the Forum repeatedly by themselves.
I have mentioned in the thesis, the role of balancer for South Korea between China and U.S. which was the topic of my MA dissertation submitted to public admin school of Seoul National University. We don’t have Mphil course in Korea and we write the dissertation at MA course. The possibility of Korea doing a role of balancer towards China comes from the broad and mutual agreement of both countries on the necessity of peace and stability in the Northeast Asia region. With regards to hypothetic concept of “strategic homogeneity”, China and South Korea have increasing strategic homogeneity compared to decreasing status between the U.S. and South Korea. China has a strategic judgment that ultimately South Korea will not be harmful to China’s long-term national interest. This judgment would yield concession and patience from China on Korea’s insignificant tactical changes and this concession provides the capability of manoeuvring for Korea to do a role of balancer between China and the U.S.
South Korea has sustained a military alliance with the U.S. for last 60 years. As a military ally, South Korea shows deep understanding and knowledge on the strategy and tactics of the U.S, and if required, it would give some advice to China that has mistrust in the U.S. which I have also discovered personally frequently. When a strategic conflict arises between the U.S. and China, Korea would calculate the damage from zero-sum game between two and suggest adjustment of the strategies for win-win game. This initiative between both would gain credibility from both powers for Korea. There are still sensitive and strategic issues such as Taiwan, the South China Sea, missile defence, and human right in which Korea could attempt a self-test its capability as a balancer that transforms the zero-sum game between two powers into win-win game. As I was asked to clarify the balancer role of South Korea by examiners thankfully I have also reinforced the role of balancer in economic area and cultural area between both in the thesis.
And I was asked by examiners thankfully to elaborate the concept of Qiutongcunyi. China initiated the notion of Qiutongcunyi 1995 Bandung Conference for the first time. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai announced in Bandung to “seek common ground while reserving differences” His attempt made the Bandung conference successful and expanded the reputation and influence of China in the third world at that time. Since then, the Chinese government handled Sino-U.S. conflicts by peaceful means and developed a cooperative partnership by qiutongcunyi, while putting quitongcunti as significant priority in other relations.
Zhang Tingyan, the first Chinese ambassador dispatched to South Korea after the normalisation, explained the practice of qiutongcunyi in the context of China’s Korean peninsula policy. He expressed that he understood the alliance between South Korea and the U.S., and China was not going to force South Korea to not have close relationships with the U.S. on account of historical and realistic causes. And he underscored that South Korea also was asked to do the same, therefore, understand the relationships between North Korea and China. It is the practice of “cunyi”, which means acceptance of differences. Zhang further articulated that the practice of “qiutong” between South Korea and China is to stabilise Korean peninsula. Zhang’s view suggested desirable and realistic practice of qiutongcunyi in China-South Korea relations.
There are couple a reasons that China has no option than supporting North Korea: first, as a traditional view, China has vulnerability in terms of proximity to North Korea, in other words, ‘lips and teeth’ relation. The other one is the possibility of separatist movement of Chosen minority ethnic people. If North Korea becomes destabilised and unstable, and South Korea initiates the unification, then Chosun minority in China would be affected by this unification, and pro- Korean people would start separatist movement which would also cause serial movement in other minorities in China. And as you may know well, there is another reason for social destabilisation by North Korean defectors. For these reasons, the stabilisation in Korean peninsula is critical to China’s own interest of security.
In Short, China and South Korea, two major countries located in Northeast Asia, the formal conversation between them was difficult in the past era because of North Korean factor for China and US factor for South Korea as well as the ideological barriers. The limitations of the communications in the official channels found a new outlet and it was the birth of the China-South Korea Security Forum.
They are still having many potential conflicts such as Ieo Island, and lately cultural, historical disputes are increasing such as Claiming over Arirang, the distortion of Kokuryo history etc. I have started the thesis from the pre-modern history between both countries, because it is difficult to find out the solution for cultural, historical disputes without knowledge of pre-modern history. The most fundamental and effective way to enhance bilateral relations is that people from both countries have higher-level understanding each other. Some conflicts can be solved through the other mechanisms rather than the government’s channel. So the more studies on this area can be expected to ease rigid decision making of the governments. China-South Korea Security Forum as a civil diplomacy has played a significant role for improving the relationship between China and South Korea at the critical moment.
While I was studying the subject, I was so happy that I could probe the government failure in the security area academically. I wanted to find out why millions of ennocent people had to be killed at Korean War. It was a serious government failure in the security area. If the U.S. and the then Soviet Union did not create the governments in both Koreas, if there were not factional leaders in that land, there would have never been those miserable casualties in the Korean peninsula. What is the real security interest of the people? We can sift through the real security interests of the people only when devoid of ideology and political factional partisan interests. Away from black or white and zero-sum game, we could create the supreme security strategy of the state for the real security interest of the people. In that sense, civil approach is sometimes recommended.