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U.S. expert calls for grand bargain with China on N. Korea

All Headlines 03:38 October 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States should seek a grand bargain with China that commits Beijing to use its leverage over North Korea to end its nuclear program in exchange for American concessions like the scrapping of a decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, a U.S. expert said Wednesday.

Amitai Etzioni, a George Washington University professor, made the point in an article in the National Interest, stressing that the "greatest threat" to U.S. security that the new American president will have to confront is North Korea.

The professor said that efforts to simply "urge" or "shame" China into acting won't work.

"The costs to China if it were to move to rein in North Korea are considerable. China views living with a Communist-ruled nuclear-armed state on its border as preferable to the chaos of its collapse," he said.

Instead, China should be offered a deal based on "differential salience," which means that each side should get what's important to its national interests from the other side by giving up what's less important.

"China might well have a high interest in gaining assurances that if the North Korean regime collapses and the two Koreas are unified, the United States will not move its troops to the border with China," the professor said. "This is a no- or low-cost proposition for the United States, because once the North Korean nuke program folds or the regime collapses, the United States should be quite content not to move its troops north."

He also said that the U.S. could offer not to deploy THAAD because once the North's s nuclear missile program is no longer an acute threat, the United States should be quite willing not to place THAAD in South Korea.

The U.S. could even offer to stop the almost daily reconnaissance flights up and down China's coast lines, which China finds very troubling and which are of little value to the United States, the professor said.

"Most of the intelligence collected in this way is of value only if one plans to attack the mainland within weeks or months," he said. "It reveals which Chinese military units are in place, who their commanders are, how they communicate and so on. However, most of these details change over time, and thus are of limited value."

Even though it's unclear if such a deal is feasible, it's at least worth trying, he said.

"There is no guarantee that the United States and China can strike a salience-based deal. However, it seems worth trying and that is a hell of a lot more promising than trying to cajole China, lecture it, or shame it into absorbing the kinds of costs and risks it would incur in order to rein in North Korea's nuclear program," he said.

China is North Korea's last-remaining major ally and a key provider of food and fuel supplies. But it has been reluctant to use its influence over Pyongyang for fears that pushing the regime too hard could result in instability in the North and hurt Chinese national interests.

Analysts say that China often increased pressure on the North in the past, especially when Pyongyang defied international appeals and carried out nuclear tests and other provocative acts, but China never went as far as to cause real pain to the North.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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