Apr 17, 2019
Concerning and Anticipating: A Struggling Korea for The Belt and Road Initiative
Concerning and Anticipating: A Struggling Korea for The Belt and Road Initiative

Feng Zhu, Vice Chairman of Academic Committee

of the Pangoal Institution

Haibao Wu, Post-doctor of the School of International Studies, Nanjing University.

Li Yue, Executive Director of the Center for North-East Asia Studies, the Pangoal Institution

The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, firstly proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in late 2013. During Boao forum for Asia 2015, on March 28th, the Chinese government officially issued Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, in which the Chinese government advocates peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, and mutual learning and benefit.

The Belt and Road Initiative is a way for win-win cooperation that promotes common development and prosperity amongst all the countries it spans. It is a road towards peace and friendship by enhancing mutual understanding and trust, and strengthening all-round exchanges. It promotes practical cooperation in all fields, and works to build a community of shared interests, destiny and responsibility featuring mutual political trust, economic integration and cultural inclusiveness.

With the consistent joint efforts of China and related parties, the Belt and Road Initiative has gained increasing acknowledgement and support. The upcoming Belt and Road Summit in Beijing will be the most notable event since the launching of the Initiative. The top leaders of 28 countries from Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America have confirmed their attendance, showing the serious recognition and support for both the Summit and the Initiative in relation to international society.

While the Republic of Korea, a founding member of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, is anxiously waiting for the invitation to the Summit, let’s take a comprehensive look at the attitude of Korea toward The Belt and Road Initiative.

I. Korea’s perceptions and attitudes toward The Belt and Road Initiative

Ever since China’s launching of The Belt and Road Initiative, two seemingly polarized views toward this grand initiative have emerged within Korea. While it has enjoyed warm hugs from some, it is facing deep doubts and suspicions from others with influence within the Republic of Korea.

1. Supporters and followers:

Those inclined to accept and welcome the Initiative mainly come from the media, the academy, as well as the industrial and business departments and from both the public and private sectors. Considering the current economic downturn and depression, they take the Initiative as an economically optimistic outlook for Korea’s future.

In the view of many, the Initiative matches well with the Eurasian Initiative proposed by former president Park Geun-hye in October 2013. The cooperation of the two grand Initiatives would promote the process of regional integration, bring together the active East Asian economic circle with the developed European one, and especially connect Korea with energy-rich Russia and the broad consuming markets of Europe and Central Asia. While the Sino-Korean strategically economic cooperation would propel both countries towards integration via global development, it could also activate the economic growth potential of the Eurasian continent and furthermore lead the recovery and development of the global economies.

For this reason, they strongly support the idea of closer economic interaction with China, speaking highly of President Xi’s calling for a Global Community of Shared Destiny by way of win-win cooperation. China is trying to build a new type of international relations via The Belt and Road Initiative, developing a new order for the worldjointly built through consultation to meet the interests of all. Every country could find a way to cooperate no matter what their social systems, religions, or values happen to be. There is great optimism about the goals of The Belt and Road Initiative, which were coined by Korean JoongAngIlbo as Weiqi Diplomacy. This is President Xi’s foreign strategy, in which Asia, Europe, and Africa can be connected in a way that will promise the winning of the hinterland.

2. Skeptics and dissenters:

There are also many people holding reservations toward the Chinese Initiative within Korea, who are labeled as pro-American and experts from some domestic think tanks. They judge the Initiative with a political view, coming to the conclusion that China is not trustworthy and the Initiative includes serious political risks. China’s geopolitical strategy could be the true intention of this economic strategy. There are concerns regarding China’s increasing regional advantages and influence with which China would slowly squeeze out US dominance, gradually change the security structure, and become the only decisive power in East Asia. With this newfound power, it could invade or erode the economic and political independence of both Korea other nearby countries.

These concerns are apparent on Korean media: “To those who borrow money from China for infrastructure, once the projects come into setbacks or failure, they would have to follow China, let by the nose”, “The Initiative is not just an offer of reciprocity and mutual benefit, there is also a risky possibility of losing economic sovereignty into the grasp of China”, “Korea would be dragged into the Chinese Order again, under which there will be no fair and just deal, no denuclearization of North Korea, or the unification of the Korean Peninsula”. There are also doubts about whether the Initiative could change the long withstanding economic, logistical, and communications channels between Asia and Europe.

What’s worth mentioning is that these negative attitudes don’t indicate a complete denial of the possibilities for Korea’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, pointing out the need to balance the economic benefits with political risks. China’s continuous practical measures are adding pressure, along with the establishment of AIIB and Silk Road Funds, as well as the strengthening of neighborhood diplomacy. As we can see, Koreans are gradually reaching a common ground in favor of the Chinese Initiative. Some skeptics also admit that “So far the cooperation on reducing trade barriers and infrastructure of transportation within the Initiative are worth trying and welcomed. And the political risks are manageable.”

A recent Chosun Ilbo Article titled “China’s Belt and Road Initiative Leading into Greek Port” said, “When Xi proposed the concept of The Belt and Road, it was simply regarded as a political rhetoric. Newspaper readers just took it as an ambitious dream when China’s medias reported the Initiative would link together the 4.4 billion people (63% of the world’s population) and an economic circle of $ 21 trillion (29% of the world GDP). However, just two years and four months later after Xi’s Proposal in September 2013, this Grand Strategy has already marched right onto the front of the eyes of Europe. Each time when Xi visits abroad, he must emphasize the importance of The Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese administration has raised their flags over more than 20 overseas stronghold ports one by one.” All this provides strong evidence that the more practical the measurements and benefits China offers, the more recognition and acceptance it will receive from major countries including Korea.

II. Analysis on Korea’s contradictory acknowledge

Korea’s contradictory views toward China are rooted in its complicated national interests, which are composed of both geopolitics and economy. Both of these are heavily influenced by actions of the two powers of China and the US.

1. China: A dominant economic partner

China plays a very important role in the international trade of Korea. Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations, Sino-Korean bilateral trade has enjoyed a sharp rise, from around $5 billion in 1992 to nearly $300 billion: a 60x increase by 2014. By June 2015, China had become the country’s largest trade partner and goods market, the largest destination country of overseas investment and tourists, and the largest resource country of both imports and overseas students. The volume of Sino-Korean bilateral trade accounted for more than one fifth of Korea’s total international trade, exceeding both Korean-American and Korean-European trade volumes.

The China ROK FTA, signed in 2015 has added new impetus to the economic growth of both counties. It is estimated that the FTA impacts GDP growth directly; 0.34 percent for China and 0.97 percent for Korea. The highly mutual interdependence of the Korea-China economy provides a solid economic foundation for The Belt and Road Initiative within Korea. Both the government and mass population are fully aware that it is a concrete fact rather than an abstract concept that Korea deeply relies on China economically.

Mr. Liu Jinsong, then Deputy Director General of Department of International Economy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, once made a bill concerning joint rail and water transportation within The Belt and Road Initiative for Korean friends. He pointed out that Asian countries had been taking advantage of cheap ocean shipping from their flourishing sea transportation industries along the coast for quite a long time. Now, a new railway construction boom all over the Asia-Europe continent has drawn the attention of the whole world. Railway transportation today is achieving optimal overall system cost thanks to the rapid development and advancement of the high-speed rail technology and infrastructure in China.

As an example, take Mr. Liu, who transports a container from Northeast Asia to North Europe. It takes around 35 days and 2 to 3 thousand US dollars by shipping, while it would take only 15 days and 7 to 8 thousand US dollars by rail. The tremendous time saving is well worth the costs. With regular operation on Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe rail lines, enterprises and firms from both China and foreign countries have noticed the increasingly significant benefits derived from the availability of joint transportation options including rail, shipping and multimodal transportation. Today, China has built about a dozen scheduled China-Central Europe rail lines. These are the early fruits of the Silk Road Economic Zone, and are providing practical benefits to the countries along them.

Supporters from Korean industrial and business circles, as mentioned above, welcome Korea cooperation with The Belt and Road Initiative, mainly because they had already benefitting from trade and business with China. The Saemangeum area program, a joint Sino-Korea FTA industrial park, takes the Initiative as a major advancement opportunity. “There would be surely a win-win situation for both Korea and China, as long as the Saemangeum project is combined with The Belt and Road Initiative, and the Chinese capital as well.”

For years, Korea has been suffering a depressed economy, with its GDP growth stagnating at a relatively low level of 2.8%. China, as Korea’s largest trading partner, has a dominant capability to help Korea obtain a stable and recovering economy,  on which Korea will be able to rely on for the foreseeable future.

2. USA: A crucial security umbrella

Although The Belt and Road Initiative provides attractive profits, Korea remains cautious on its cooperation with the strategy. Korea calculates its gains and losses according to the attitudes of both China and the US. While China ranks as Korea’s No. 1 international trading partner today, US military power has been acting as a crucial security umbrella against North Korea for around 60 years. When Korea wavered in determination to join the AIIB, its contradictory mind and thoughts toward the two powers were clear. Despite serious opposition from China, Korea moved forward with the deployment of THAAD. This is an expression of the country’s deep concern for its national security, along with its reliance on the US for military defense.

It is very difficult for Korea to independently arrive at foreign policies under this dual status situation. In other words, Korea is always trying to balance its relationship with both China and the US, attempting to gain the most advantages from both sides. This train of thought could be explained by South Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se’s words in 2015; “Korea would be able to obtain and enjoy a piece of cake of its own, if we can balance the two regional powers’ influences of both China and the US under the current foreign policies”. Korea has been working efficiently on this balancing art so far, as evidenced by the decision of joining AIIB and deploying THAAD despite strong objections from either the US or China.

III. Korea’s Reactions and response toward The Initiative

Interior Reactions and response from Korea toward the Initiative had gone through a process of three major phases; from being suspicious and doubtful, to understanding and accepting, and finally actively welcoming and promoting it.

1. The Eurasia Initiative, an initial response to The Belt and Road Initiative

The Eurasia Initiative was firstly proposed by former President Park Geun-hye in October 2013, which was regarded as a national development strategy and also an important international cooperation initiative. The Korean government has drawn a grand map of a united, creative and peaceful Eurasian continent of sustainable prosperity and peace via regional economic cooperation. The Initiative takes China, countries of Central Asia, Russia, Mongolia, and Turkey as major partners, making a geopolitical circle with the Korean Peninsula and Far East Russia as the centered region. The Initiative is composed of three fundamental plans: Building Silk Road Express, from Busan to Europe, through countries of North Korea, Russia, China, Central Asia, constructing the Eurasia Energy Network, and realizing the Economic Union of Eurasia.

The Eurasia Initiative was presented right after the birth of The Belt and Road Initiative, many people took it as Korean initial response to the Chinese. When she met visiting Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of National People's Congress of China, in June 2015, Park Geun-hye delivered the hope of cooperation with China considering that the Initiatives of both countries had much in common. Mr. Lee Jae Yong, the Chief of Eurasia Office of Korea Foreign Economic Policy Institute, once offered his reading on the connection of the two Initiatives: “The fitting point of the Initiatives locates in the China’s Northeastern provinces and Russia. Joint advantages of China’s capital, Korea’s technology, and natural resources of the third party will lead to a mutually beneficial win-win cooperation.” Shortly after the proposal of Park Geun-hye’s Eurasia Initiative, an article of Reader’s Commentary in the Chosun Ilbo talked about The Belt and Road Initiative. This report, titled “A ‘Silk Route Economic Circle’ with A 3 Billion Population Starting” on Nov. 19, 2013, delivered Korea’s early words toward The Belt and Road Initiative of China, “Chinese President Xi Jinping had proposed a communication network between China and Central Asia September 2013, which was mapped as a grand passing channel from the Pacific right to the Baltic. The core meaning of this Economic Circle plan is to connect the giant markets of both China and Central Asia into a single cooperative economy.”

Accompanied by the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to Korea July 3, 2014, The Belt and Road has gained further attention within Korea. Korean media provided various interpretations and introductions upon The Belt and Road concept, including the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, as well as the Initiative Foreign policy of Chinese leadership. As a mainstream media outlet in Korea, the Chosun Ilbo even proposed suggestions to its government that “It is necessary to explore the connection between the Eurasia Initiative and The Belt and Road Initiative.” and “Were the two grand Initiatives to be linked, China would become a connecting bridge between Far East Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Europe and Korea, which would moreover promote the competitive powers for both countries.”

2. Joining AIIB after repeatedly hesitation

On October 24, 2014, government representatives of 21 countries officially signed the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank Memorandum, starting the practical clock of AIIB for The Belt and Road Initiative. The Korean government had been stuck in its reservations of joining AIIB from the very beginning, revealing its deep hesitation derived from concerns about the US, which considers the AIIB a threat to itself, Europe, and Japan as leading powers in international finance. Considering Koreas highly reliant relationship with the US, Korea cannot just ignore America’s attitude and point of view.

Under the diplomatic attack from China at the Annual Meeting of Boao Asia Forum 2015, sophisticated changes had taken place within the Korean government. This includes the rising desire from the interior promoting the separate handling of issues concerning economy and politics, “Upon the matter of Chinese New Silk Road strategy, it would rather be handled as an economic issue than a political one, which is the only way to create an atmosphere of cooperation.” “The Middle East and Southeast Asia, located in the core area of the New Silk Road strategy, rank first and second in constructing markets for Korea. If China is to pour huge amount of money through social indirect capital investment in this area, it would be a good opportunity for Korea, too.”

Meanwhile, there has been a public discussion within Korea on the competition between the two powers of both China and the US in Asia, considering that The Belt and Road Initiative is to confront Obama’s Asia Network.  Korea plays double roles as the backing force of the China’s Initiative and vanguard of the US Asia-Pacific Rebalancing. As the discussion deepened, public opinions gradually shifted to prefer practical national interests and Economic pragmatism, considering it is realistic for Korea to join AIIB. While witnessing Britain join AIIB of the international society, Korea definitely made the correct decision to join AIIB before the deadline set by China for founder members, recognizing the Sino-Korea current relationship and mega trend of future development, which promoted bilateral relations to a higher new level.

Moreover, there rose a dissatisfied voice within the country against the US disturbing Korea’s joining of the AIIB. The Chosun Ilbo quoted an article of Colin Powell, former Secretary of State of the United States, saying that AIIB is not a bad vision. The US has rashly criticized both the bank and its members, and the criticism should be stopped. As Korea became a founding member of AIIB, its civil population is getting more aware of this Chinese Initiative, thanks to the Korean domestic media’s popularization of the Initiative. Again, Chosun Ilbo, for example, sent two field interviewing groups to the key cities of both China and countries of Central Asia, and had presented Series Reports with the topic of “Current Advance of The Belt and Road Initiative and Effect on Korea”.

3. Sino-Korea Memorandum of Cooperation on The Belt and Road Initiative

The official signing of the Sino-Korea Free Trade Agreement in June 2016, established a solid foundation for the fusion of The Belt and Road Initiative and The Eurasia Initiative. On October 31, the two governments signed Memorandum of Cooperation on The Belt and Road Initiative and The Eurasia Initiative under the witness of Premier Li Keqiang and then President Park Geun-hye. By signing the agreement, these two government leaders decided to strengthen bilateral exchange and cooperation in areas including manufacturing policy, designing research, and environment friendly plants. The long term cooperative agreement will speed many fields including industrial robots manufacture. The agreement promotes the fusion of Korean technology and Chinese Capital and the ability to jointly develop infrastructure and equipment markets for third parties. Both leaders agreed on the linkage of Korea’s “New Manufacturing Creation 3.0” and “Made in China 2015”, aiming at the transformation of manufacturing in both counties. The two governments also agreed to coordinate their strategies of Eurasia Initiative and The Belt and Road Initiative, providing more opportunities for Korean enterprises to go overseas via the China proposed AIIB. Under this plan, both countries also decided to begin investigating the possibility of a common fund for financial support. The two countries also came to an agreement on establishing a currency market in Shanghai for direct exchange between Won and RMB, and the permission for RMB bond issues by the Korean government.

4. Joint projects discussion and docking platforms establishment

Along with the deepening of bilateral cooperation between China and Korea, the fusion of the two grand Initiatives has ascended to a new stage of practical operation step by step. Mr. Yoo Il-ho, Vice Premier and Chief Officer of Ministry of Strategy and Finance said at the 14th Korea-China Financial Minister Meeting, that Korea and China should realize the Nation Dreams of Both Korea and China by means of win-win cooperation. He also proposed to establish docking platforms for the two grand Initiatives, carrying out joint investigation into the field of infrastructure, communications technology, energy, and iron and steel in the major countries of Asia and Africa within The Belt and Road initiative. Both countries are to strengthen information exchange, and to explore means and ways to provide financial support to enterprises via multilateral financial agencies and import & export banks. He urged to accelerate such pilot projects as the development of seaports in Hunchun of China, and Sizhalubi Nobel of Russia.

At the same event, the Chinese counterpart proposed to start the bilateral cooperation from the development of the three Northeastern provinces of China. During the meeting, the two governments announced matching results of both countries findings from pilot projects regarding third party markets, and went on to sign the Memorandum on Cooperation of Development and Investment. These agreements indicated further practical cooperation between the two countries. Korean enterprises, such as KOTRA, have already taken steps towards cooperation by organizing exhibitions in Wuhan and Xi’an China and holding local business matching activities, to ambitiously develop Robotics markets in China.

5. Anxiety due to lack of invitation to the BRF Summit

Dramatic political turbulence within Korea has bothered both the country and the world, highlighted the impeachment and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye, the fiercely election campaign, and anxiety stemming from not being invited to the BRF summit. Ever since the announcement of the May BRF Summit guest list by the Chinese government in early March 2017, there's been a public mood of desperation and anxiety within Korea.

An article strikingly titled as “China to host BRF, No Korea Official Invited” in Chosun Ilbo on March 4, said that Chinese government had sent invitations to top leaders or ministerial officials of more than 60 countries all over the world, including Japan with which China is not particularly friendly, and Australia which is not closely related to The Initiative. China is even trying to invite representatives from Trade Representative Office of the US to be present at the Summit. On the contrary, not only has Korea not received an invitation for President or Premier, but not even for any ministerial official. The report also said that China has not even attempted to understand Korea’s inclination toward the Summit. The only institutes that received invitations were International Exchange Consortium and Foreign Economic Policy Institute, whose representatives were invited to attend the Parallel Meeting of Think Tanks. That is, Korea has been put on the lowest level of attendants according to the invitation scale.

The article also suggested that Korea was intentionally slighted by China, mainly because of the deployment of THAAD. It also expressed the uneven emotion by quoting some diplomat from Southeast Asia saying, “As the hosting country of the Annual Meeting of AIIB Council in June, Korea was officially let out from the Summit. The response is a little extreme.” It is said that Mr. Kim, Koreas Ambassador to China, had requested direct talks with related departments of trade and business, culture, and tourist, etc., but even after several months received no response.

Apart from feeling left-out, there is another voice calling for the rethinking of the Korean foreign policy. According to this point of view, Korea cannot push all the responsibility to the Chinese side, because there has been oversight from the government on the matter of understanding strategic intentions and diminishing unnecessary concerns of China. A diplomat said that “Then Premier Hwang Kyo-ahn told President Xi Jinping when he visited China at the end of last June that Korea had not made any decision upon THAAD, but the declaration of deployment of THAAD came up no less ten days after the meeting.” “Our immature [action] triggered distrust from the Chinese government, and this is one of the major reasons leading to all these unfavorable consequences.”

6Performing actively during the second annual meeting of AIIB

On June 16th, the second annual meeting of AIIB opened in Jeju Island, South korea. In a speech at the opening ceremony, the new president Moon Jae-in gave a high evaluation to The Belt and Road initiative, said South Korea is in the east end of the Silk Road, clearly linking South Korea with China Silk Road initiative. He also highly hoped AIIB will play an important role in the infrastructure construction in South Korea, which will bring more jobs and better economic prospects. The president especially mentioned the status of the interruption of the north-south railway on the Korean Peninsula, and hoped that the railway can reconnect. Analysts said the speech of president publicly shows that the railway connection is an important part of Asian infrastructure development projects advanced by AIIB, and is committed to the realization of peace and stability in the region.

Looking back from the day when The Belt and Road Initiative was presented, we could generally say that Korea has taken a relatively positive attitude toward it, although struggling in hesitating steps through the ideological to the practical. It is worth mentioning that joining AIIB at the last moment and signing Sino-Korea FTA mark two concrete measures Korea has recently taken.

IV. Policy Suggestion

1. Strengthening the Campaign of Propaganda

Korea has been involved in the strategic process of The Belt and Road with its joining and becoming a founding member of AIIB. Although there have been differing views toward the Belt and Road among Koreans, it is a mainstream concept that it is best for Korea to collaborate with China’s strategy. There remain many negative views about the development and concept of The Belt and Road from officials, scholars, and civilians. Some argue that the rise of China will become a threat to neighboring countries like Korea, and that The Belt and Road strategy is meant to challenge the current international order led by the USA. Others say that China is seeking hegemony over Asia and even the world. Another claim is that the AIIB is meant to promote non-transparent or non-multilateral governance, damaging the national interests of Korea. Korea’s initial hesitation toward AIIB was partially based on these negative points of view. Lee Xiangguo, Chief Researcher from Korea National Defense Institute, said that there were two major aims of The Belt and Road: economic growth and military expansion. All these negative public opinions illustrate that China still has a lot of work to do in framing the story of The Belt and Road in an agreeable way.

2. Avoiding over-nationalism

Both China and Korea have been hammered by rising nationalism due to Korea’s decision for THAAD deployment and the Lotte incident that followed it. Korea’s anxiousness toward the rising power of China is clear. In an interview on Korean media of famous thinker and philosopher King Wrong, it was said that China is a dignified empire of greatness and dominance with a history spanning thousands of years. However, it is the over-reacting Grand China Nationalism on the road to rejuvenation that worries neighboring countries most, not the traditional “Tian Xia” awareness. According to many Korean media personalities and civilians, China’s power has ‘gone to its head, with signs of “arrogance and rudeness” when dealing with Korea. China is also accused of treating Korea as below it, and hinting the idea that smaller countries should defer to larger ones during conflict. These ideas fail to explain why China is having so much issues regarding the South China Sea, even though the main regional challenger is the Philippines, a small country with much less power.

Korea is seeing an increasing feeling of hostility toward China with the development of THAAD, and the fermentation of Lotte incident. Some Koreans living in China are noticing that Chinese people are not willing to meet with them like before, or add with “not supposed to meet” even during a meeting. Koreans cannot understand the negative attitude of Chinese people toward Korean’s legitimate security concerns regarding North Korea. Koreans believe that they must deploy THAAD against the threat of being eliminated by the North, and China has some responsibility for the nuclear issue of the North. Some even say that China is actively perpetuating the North Korean regime. All these unfavorable views caused by rising nationalism of both sides have seriously affected the people-to-people bonds, as well as Korea’s co-operation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

It is recommended that China should carry out more practical measures to help Korean civilians understand and accept the concepts behind the Initiative and the dream for the rejuvenation of China.

3. Respectively considering matters related to politics and economy

With the strained China-Korea relations wandering toward a cold economic situation due to the THAAD deployment, China should consider matters related to politics and economy. The industrial interests of Korea still hold desire and support for China’s Initiative, because the Korean government is quite aware that this grand strategy has realistic benefits to the economic recovery of Korea and the security and stability of neighborhood. There is a high possibility for the Korean government to accelerate economic cooperation with China under the currently strong Sino-Korea political relationship. Just as Chinese Ambassador to Korea, Mr. Qiu Hongguo says, the Sino-Korea relationship is quite like a married couple, “even there is quarreling and arguing, sometime breaking glasses or dishes, they are doomed to get along with the days for the good.” Mr. Yoo Il-ho, Korea’s Vice Premier on Economy and Chief Financial Officer, emphasized that China is the largest economic partner, and Korea must increase exports to China…That the deployment of THAAD is a matter of politics, and let the economy do its job separately.

4. Handling the North Korea issue carefully

North Korea geographically locates at the core area of Northeast Asia, which is an important passage for the connection and communication of the neighborhood. For this reason, its stability is critical for the realization of peace and security in the region. The Grand Initiative would not achieve a full circle of communication for the nearby economies without the cooperation of North Korea. However, the continuous nuclear weapon tests have caused unease in the region and discomfort with China, as they have raised new challenges against the carrying out of the Initiative. Korea has clearly figured out the unfavorable effects during economic cooperation with China, which has two major intentions. Economically, Korea aims to explore Eurasian markets for its north-looking strategy, by means of economic cooperation and China’s influence on North Korea. Politically, Korea hopes to realize the security and stability of the Peninsula via the connection and support of economic linkages among related parties. So, China’s Initiative within Korea involves two purposes: economic pragmatism and security, both in which the issue of North Korea cannot be neglected.

Along with the sticking to the principle of a nuclear-free peninsula, there might be a second alternative for China. This is to explore a deeper economic exchange with North Korea. International sanctions by the US, Japan and Korea would lead to vicious spiral on the North Korea nuclear issue. Once the security concerns of North Korea are reduced, it might deal with the situation with an easy and cooperative attitude. It would be one of the contributions that Belt and Road Initiative could make for easing the intensive Northeast Asia situation, by gradually pushing North Korea into the development process of regional cooperation in Northeast.

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