Roshan Writes: With the ouster of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the US intentions of dealing with North Korea aggressively may be weakened, as the new elected leader, post elections, may not be inclined to deal with the neighbour in the same aggressive manner as the US may desire. If the elected leader has a leftist leaning, then there are all the more chances that the hardline approach adopted by the erstwhile President may be totally abandoned in lieu of adopting constructive bilateral or six party negotiations.
China on its part has tried to play its card smartly. By adopting a two prong (soft and hard) approach it has tried to create more challenges for the US. On one hand by agreeing to go in for coal sanctions against the North Koreans, (and asking them to halt the test) and concomitantly asking the US to stop the joint exercise with the South Koreans has shown its soft approach whereas by banning South Korean retail shops on flimsy grounds, and ban on the travel tours to South Korea, the hardline approach of China is quite evident. 23 of South Korea’s supermarket shops (Lotte Group) has been shut down. This is because the company Lotte had approved a land swap that would allow the government to install the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Chinese are directly indicating that they will not tolerate US hegemony in its neighbourhood. South Korean economic dependency is known and if the trend continues with other major companies then South Korea is in for some hard choices. They will have to choose between tolerating the belligerent behaviour of the North Koreans or go in for economic hardships to counter Chinese aggressiveness. China on its part is emerging as a major power by rapidly learning the tricks of the trade, and trying to defeat the US in their own game (with some tremendous help from the inexperienced Trump administration.)
US on its part is caught between its two allies, on one hand Japan wants to adopt a hardline approach against the North Koreans whereas the South Koreans may not like to do so.US also is getting more and more isolated because of its President’s immature outbursts. Already the Australians’ are talking about the time for US and European domination being over, and further their closeness to the Chinese may challenge the US alliance network in future. The recent visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Japan, South Korea and Beijing would be an indicator as to what approach the US adopts. The statement by Tillerson that “all options are on the table” needs to be observed and one needs to see whether US has the determination to go in for a more aggressive option of threatening North Koreans with the military route or alternatively tow the Chinese line and go in for negotiations and ignore North Korea’s nuclear programme.