Are Russia, China and North Korea getting closer?
An article published in Financial Times Chinese on July 29 said that US, Japan and South Korea are acting increasingly independently, while a trend of joint action is being frequently observed among China, Russia and North Korea. Thus, a conclusion is made in the article - balance of power in Northeast Asia is being reorganized. As Global Times reports, indeed, the US-Japan-South Korea security alliance is facing many challenges. Both Japan and South Korea want to strengthen their significance and independence within the system. However, the three countries' alliance will not collapse, nor will the US lose its dominance over the other two countries in the alliance.
The current divergences between Japan and South Korea are in trade, bilateral relations and the two peoples' sentiments. Tokyo and Seoul have misjudgments and misunderstandings about each other, which has led to their current disputes. But they are not deliberately trying to shake off Washington's control. Japan-South Korea disputes have not impacted the essence of the US-Japan-South Korea alliance. Japan-South Korea trade conflicts might somewhat influence the three countries' cooperation, but their military alliance is still stable. Yet the US-Japan-South Korea alliance needs to be reshaped and transformed under new geopolitical and international conditions.
As long as the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is not realized, South Korea will remain dependent on the US in security and geopolitics. The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a military intelligence-sharing pact between Japan and South Korea, is supposed to be renewed on August 24. This will be an important juncture. If any change occurs to the agreement, there might be a crack in the US-Japan-South Korea military alliance, even though it will not completely collapse. The US has not interfered much in the ongoing trade row between Japan and South Korea. Washington has its own considerations. Japan imposed sanctions on South Korea targeting the latter's core industry. As the US uses sanctions and tariffs as tools against other countries, it is not qualified to find faults with Japan.
Seoul is under the pressure of sanctions from Tokyo, but Washington still insists South Korea pay a yearly amount of $5 billion for the stationing of US forces in South Korea, adding that "the amount is non-negotiable." It shows that the US is still confident in the US-Japan-South Korea alliance. The US is still dominating the alliance and it is trying to sow uncertainties in Northeast Asia. The Financial Times article said that a trend of joint actions are being observed among China, Russia and North Korea. We could interpret the phenomenon as an improvement in China-North Korea and China-Russia bilateral relations. Indeed, it seems that China, Russia and North Korea are coordinating more frequently with each other. When Japan and South Korea are caught in disputes, China and Russia conducted a strategic bomber patrol in Asia-Pacific region, and North Korea fired more short-range ballistic missiles during the last several weeks.
All these indicators show that these countries have their own geopolitical strategies. However, it is not likely that China, Russia and North Korea will have more essential coordination or even form an alliance. The relations among China, Russia and North Korea also reflect that China is in favor of building a community with a shared future for mankind and is against unilateralism and trade protectionism. Such a philosophy is agreed upon by many countries.
Instead of saying that the US-Japan-South Korea alliance is failing and that China, Russia and North Korea are acting jointly, it is better to say Northeast Asian countries have more consensus and common interests. During the Eastern Economic Forum held in Russia's Far East in 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on countries to seize the historical opportunity to strengthen cooperation in Northeast Asia for regional peace and prosperity. Although Japan and South Korea have historical and trade disputes, both countries, as well as China, Russia and North Korea hope to establish a sound relationship that benefits international development.