SEOUL, Experts called for efforts to mitigate an intensifying geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China to help foster peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia during a security forum in Seoul on Thursday.
On the second day of the Seoul Defense Dialogue hosted by South Korea's defense ministry, they voiced concerns over the potential ramifications of the strategic competition between the great powers over trade, maritime security and regional preeminence.
"The U.S.-China hegemonic competition and the increasing security dilemma within Northeast Asia are difficult challenges. ... With continuing mutual distrust, it is challenging to reach cooperation which presumes concessions between the two," Kim Joon-hyung, professor of international studies at Handong Global University, said.
"A fault line has been created along the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Among these, the Korean Peninsula may become the most intense one," he added.
Fears have been growing that the Sino-U.S. contest could hamper the international cooperation necessary to induce North Korea to renounce its nuclear ambitions and take a genuine path of economic development and peace.
U.S. President Donald Trump has indicated that China appears to be part of the reasons why Washington's denuclearization talks with Pyongyang have made little tangible progress despite the two sides' stated commitment to the "complete" denuclearization.
Kim noted that China's strategic interests may be to keep the communist regime "stable, secure and relatively friendly to China" or at least not inclined towards the U.S. He pointed out the need for Washington to develop North Korea policy with careful consideration of its impact on the regional strategic balance.
"A failure to strike that delicate balance and the resulting potential for active hostility among great powers would have ramifications beyond the region," he said.
Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said that the leaders of the U.S. and China increasingly view dynamics on the peninsula "through the lens of major power competition."
"Any initiative to enhance the U.S.-ROK alliance will be seen by many in Beijing as counter to China's interests, even if these initiatives may be a completely justified reaction to North Korean belligerence that does nothing to impact Chinese interests," he said. ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.
"For its part, many in Washington see China behind the persistent challenges it faces in negotiations with North Korea," he added.
Zhang Tuosheng, the chairman of the Academic Committee at the China Foundation for International Strategic Studies, called for efforts by great powers to preclude the emergence of a "new Cold War."
"First and foremost, the strategic competition between China and the U.S. and between the U.S. and Russia must be effectively managed and controlled to avoid a new Cold War," he said. "China and the U.S. should prevent comprehensive and sustained trade war between them."
He also said that Washington's policy to promote a "free and open" Indo-Pacific region should be "steered toward cooperation with rather than confrontation against Beijing's One Belt One Road initiative."
Observers have said that the major powers' geo-strategic initiatives could clash at some point, as they might seek regional primacy based on the initiatives.
Source: Yonhap News Agency