Disastrous for China

PYONGYANG/SEOUL/BERLIN | | kvdrsuedkoreachina

PYONGYANG/SEOUL/BERLIN (Own report) - Following the armed confrontation at the maritime border between South and North Korea, Berlin has increased pressure on Pyongyang. The German foreign ministry announced, it had summoned the North Korean ambassador Wednesday and protested against the deadly shelling of the Yeonpyeong Island. The escalation at the disputed maritime border was a setback for German efforts to reach unification between North and South Korea. For years, Germany has been pursuing this objective. Berlin is not only hoping to have more influence on the Korean Peninsular - claiming that in questions of reunification their qualifications are unrivaled - but also to gain comprehensive geo-strategic advantages over China. North Korea, according to Chinese experts, serves as a "buffer zone" between the People's Republic of China and the US troops stationed in South Korea. On the other hand, for years, Germany has been furnishing South Korea with weaponry. South Korea is at the top of Germany's list of customers for its combat material - most recently in first place.

Fatal Shots

Tensions have persisted between South and North Korea since the most recent armed confrontation. Last Tuesday there was an exchange of fire at the maritime border near the Yeonpyeong Island, killing two civilians and two soldiers from South Korea and wounding 15 soldiers. Various buildings were damaged on Yeonpyeong. Seoul says Pyongyang attacked for no reason. Pyongyang declared that South Korean warships opened fire on North Korean territory first. The assessment of the facts is made more difficult because Pyongyang does not recognize the maritime border set by the United Nations under Western influence and because Seoul was carrying out naval maneuvers - including firing live ammunition - in the disputed area, at the time of the escalation. This exchange of fire is the second deadly incident this year. On March 26, a South Korean corvette was destroyed and sunk. None of the 46 sailors survived. After having had initial doubts, Seoul is now convinced that the ship had been deliberately targeted by the North Korean Navy. Pyongyang denies this. The deadly incident in March also took place during a South Korean maneuver in the disputed maritime border area.[1]

Unification Experts

For years, Germany has been preoccupied with relations between South and North Korea. Berlin's efforts have been aimed particularly at achieving a "reunification" of the two countries. German organizations, particularly the party affiliated foundations, above all the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation, are present in Seoul with corresponding programs and are making efforts to intensify their contacts to Pyongyang.[2] Berlin declares that, due to its experience with the annexation of the German Democratic Republic, Germany is in the best position to be helpful in a fusion of South and North Korea - hoping to play an active and effective role that will insure its influence on the Korean Peninsular. Just recently German experts concluded that the new generation that has now come to power in Pyongyang, is prepared to open up North Korea to the West. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]) The escalation of belligerency at the maritime border between the two Koreas, is taking place at a time of possible wide-ranging transformations in Pyongyang.

Buffer Zone

A few years ago, Shen Dingli, director of the Institute of International Studies at the renowned Fudan-University in Shanghai, explained that it would be mainly the People's Republic of China that would be affected by North Korea's opening up to the West and its eventual unification with South Korea. According to Shen, North Korea is of great significance to China "as a strategic buffer zone." It keeps the troops stationed in South Korea - nearly 30,000 soldiers - at bay, tying them down, providing Beijing a margin of maneuver, including in its relationship with Taiwan. But if Pyongyang, in the course of its opening up to the West, either changes sides or agrees to unite with South Korea, the People's Republic would lose its northeastern "buffer zone". What would happen, asks Shen, if Pyongyang were to "sign an accord with the United States, trade nuclear weapons in exchange for friendship and thereby follow in Libya's footsteps?" Western troops would probably be standing right at the Chinese border, predicted the expert and warned that pressure on Beijing would be "far more serious" than it is today.[4]

Arms Supplier

For some time, the Federal Republic of Germany has been supplementing its supposedly peaceful policies on behalf of Korean "reunification", with tangible support for South Korea - including arms deliveries. Most recently Germany was Seoul's second largest supplier of combat material. South Korea is particularly buying helicopters, spare parts for tanks and other armored vehicles as well as ships and naval hardware on a regular basis. In 2003 - 2004 Seoul was the third largest customer for German arms supplies, outside of NATO. In 2007 South Korea rose to sixth place in the overall list of German sales and even topped the list in 2008 - with shipment permits for more than 1.9 billion Euros worth of goods. Berlin's previous Defense Minister, Franz Josef Jung, reached an accord with his South Korean counterpart for closer military cooperation between their two countries in 2007. As part of the extension of this bilateral cooperation, a high-ranking delegation of the South Korean armed forces visited Germany last June.

Better Armed Adversaries

Of course, the German arms deliveries are primarily meant to reinforce Seoul in its conflicts with Pyongyang. According to arms experts, the South Korean Navy is "oriented toward an inter-Korean war." Its arms include "German supplied submarines and modern combat ships" they explain, adding that these are "also equivalent to the weapons of countries technologically better equipped than the North Korean Navy."[5] But the official South Korean military doctrine is not merely oriented on an eventual war with North Korea. According to Shen Dingli, if North Korea is defeated, the West could advance right up to the Chinese border, and this would be "disastrous for China." In Seoul, the scenario of a war between a reunited Korea and the People's Republic of China is now being seen as a possibility. This war would, to a large extent, be waged with German weapons - on the Korean side and against Beijing.

[1] Rainer Werning: Auf Provokationskurs; junge Welt 03.06.2010
[2] see also Gesamt-Transformation and Even Closer to China
[3] see also Even Closer to China
[4] Shen Dingli: North Korea's Strategic Significance to China; China Security, Autumn 2006
[5] Bonn International Center for Conversion: Länderportrait Korea; www.bicc.de