The article is not so much academic as in the form of writing with which I am most familiar, of policy and strategy advice to government. In the middle of the advice is that of the need to accept the status quo in North Korea. Diplomacy, negotiations, that seek regime change or simple de-nuclearisation by the north are useless.
This is the abstract of my article. Gavan McCormack suggested the title, a bit more lively than my own words.
The Dilemmas of Middle Powers:
Australia and South Korea in The Age of Trump
A new and different administration has taken office in the Republic of Korea with warm and enthusiastic expectation for change on the part of voters.
The experience of a radically new Australian government, elected in 1972 but defeated three years later, may offer useful lessons. We learned that a government making changes on many fronts risks being misunderstood, risks its own coherence, risks defeat if there is not adequate coordination and adequate public knowledge and understanding of what is happening. Officials and defence force individuals need to have a clear view of the government’s perspectives and their roles in the future.
This is a period of great turbulence in world affairs and western leadership by the United States. There are clashes between different types of organisation and different social perspectives that need to be considered in addressing the Trump White House, the DPRK leadership… and the chaebols.
The United States’ position in the world is no longer unassailably dominant. The ROK’s future is not sensibly tied as in the past back through alliance to western perspectives. It is important for the ROK and China to develop vision statements of their future together.
There is a stagnation in approaches to the DPRK and new ways forward are essential. The ROK needs to assert its right to a commanding role in discussions with the DPRK. ‘Diplomacy’ is not an objective. To seek by diplomacy to get the DPRK to disarm is unrealistic without consideration of and empathy towards the DPRK’s perception of threat and need for deterrence. Acceptance of the status quo is important for any progress.
There must be clear directions for US and ROK officials and defence forces about who decides what defence activities may be carried out and what forces may be introduced or exercised. These directions must reflect ROK sovereignty.
There is a great pressure on the Korean situation from long-established rules, military plans and manoeuvres, tabloid hostilities and mockery of the DPRK and simple-minded opinions in too many high places that the North Koreans are simply crazy.
The ROK needs freedom to put historical baggage aside in dealing with the North. The future of the Korean peninsula has to be resolved in a process of self-determination. Every step must be documented and clear at every level.