What New Zealand can learn from South Korea about being mates with both China and the US

What New Zealand can learn from South Korea about being mates with both China and the US

The old proverb – “When whales fight the shrimp's back is broken” – is striking a chord with South Koreans, ahead of US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting this week.

South Korea’s Vice Foreign Affairs Minister has dubbed China’s move to boycott its relationship, due to it employing the US’s anti-ballistic missile system, as “extremely irrational”.

Speaking at the World Journalists Conference in Seoul on Monday, Ahn Chong-ghee said: “In the face of North Korea’s growing array of short, medium, long range and even submarine-launched missiles; in the face of this looming existential threat, Korea has every right to seek to better defend itself.

“One critical means to do so is the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence or the so-called [US] THAAD missile defence system..."

He explained: "North Korea has recently been stepping up its nuclear development at a deeply troubling pace. Just last year alone, it conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile launches. This year has already seen three separate rounds of missile tests.

“A sixth nuclear test might also be in the offing. With every launch and every test North Korea comes ever closer to mastering the technology to wreak mass destruction.

“The world has seen that North Korea will not confine itself to mere bluster. VX nerve agent – an extremely lethal chemical weapon – was used to assassinate the brother of the North Korean leader in broad daylight in a third country. The incident is a glaring reminder of the utter recklessness of the young leader.

“The coupling of such recklessness with weapons of mass destruction would be a recipe for disaster. It is precisely for this reason that North Korea now tops the list of global security concerns for the world."

'Questioning the legitimate right of self-defence is inappropriate'

Ahn went on to say: “Questioning the legitimate right of self-defence is inappropriate. The retaliatory measures by China against a defensive deployment directed solely against North Korea is something that defies comprehension.

“Korean companies have been subject to widespread discriminatory inspections. The company that provided the land for the deployment has seen more than 80% of its operating outlets in China suspended.

“As of March 15, sales of travel packages to Korea have ceased and group visits have come to a half altogether. Cultural programs have been cancelled on countless occasions. These across the board measures are deeply misguided and they need to stop...

“China has in recent months been championing free trade, standing form in resisting protectionism. We very much welcome this stand. But at the same time, we strongly hope that these words are matched with action.”

Ahn’s hard line approach in some ways echoed Trump’s, who earlier told the Financial Times: "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."

Ahn added the various agreements reached with North Korea had been useless.

“…those 20 plus years have seen North Korea come closer and closer to acquiring a more advanced nuclear capability. If the past is any guide, a dialogue for the sake of dialogue brings us nowhere.”

As well as encouraging the US’s presence in South Korea, he called for tougher sanctions against the country and support from the international community.

China opposes ‘escalation of tensions for self-interest’

Also speaking at the conference, a public relations director for the People’s Daily – the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party – affirmed the “Chinese media’s” opposition to THAAD.

Zhang Yong said: “The Chinese media are more concerned with the recent THAAD issue than the nuclear test of the North. We believe that THAAD will open the Pandora’s Box.

“First, the North Korea will take more reckless action under new pressure, and it may never come back to negotiation.

“Second, China’s national security and strategic interests will be greatly challenged and undermined. China is bound to take countermeasures in a serious manner…

“Few people in China think that the THAAD battery to be deployed in the South Korea has effect in shielding the threat from the north… But it has a major role to play for the United States to put half of China under its radar surveillance.

“Third, the balance of power in the north-east Asia and the whole world will be changed and the new round of arms race will be triggered…

“The relations between China and the South Korea will be crippled…

“From 2003 to 2009, the dialogue and negotiation on the issue have been effective in calming down the North Korea and the situation on the Peninsula was relatively stable. Since 2009, the talks were suspended and the issue was dealt with through confrontational means.

“The situation has appeared to be a vicious circle: nuclear test led to sanctions, and sanctions led to new test, and it goes on and on…

“We oppose the provocation and escalation of tensions for self-interest, and eschew the practice of shifting trouble onto neighbours and seeking gain at the expense of others.”

Tensions underscore need for diversification

The evident threat of a nuclear war aside, the tensions breaking South Korea’s back, beg the question; could New Zealand face a similar fate with its two largest trading partners – China and the US – at odds with each other?

Lukas Beech, a DHR International executive who works with international companies in South Korea, and is a board member of the New Zealand chamber of commerce in South Korea, doesn’t believe so, but maintains it underlines the need for New Zealand to diversify its trade strategy.

Speaking to interest.co.nz, he said he didn’t see China’s severing of economic relations with South Korea lasting long. He noted the big South Korean Lotte chain isn’t scaling back its operations in China, despite THAAD prompting Chinese authorities to close dozens of stores.

And while Ahn in his speech didn’t mention anything about the impeachment of South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye, and how the upcoming election in May could affect matters in South Korea, Beech noted the left-wing opposition was touted to win.

Known for being less confrontational and more open to dialogue with North Korea, a change in government could therefore see South Korea soften its approach in line with China’s strategy.

Beech’s view contrasts that of Australian journalist and film maker, John Pilger, who last week told the Herald New Zealand was “precariously placed” in its dealings with the US and China.

While the Government made ambitious new economic commitments with China, this relationship is being undermined by its growing support for American provocations in the disputed South China Sea, Pilger argued.

"It almost seems that New Zealand is beckoning China as an enemy," he said.

Jenée Tibshraeny was sponsored to attend the World Journalists Conference in Seoul by the Journalists Association of Korea.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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First, I think you meant John Pilger. Pilger reflexively hates the West and, therefore, the idea that Communist China is acting aggressively and the US is defending the peace never enters his mind. For him the US is always and forever bad and everyone else, including a regime that has murder more people than even the USSR, must be good - in fact better than us!
If we must pick between the US and China it must be the US without doubt or qualification. China does not play by the rules as we see in the South China Sea. The Communists are bullying and intimidating other countries in the SCS. Imperial China called itself the "middle kingdom" and the Communists have followed suit. This is not just a quaint term but rather how the Chinese see themselves, that is, middle of the world and all other peoples and nations revolve around them as vassal states.

I think historically China mostly considered nations beyond the Middle Kingdom as the realm of the barbarians and sought to isolate themselves from them. They haven't been particularly imperialistic but did suffer greatly from imperialist powers like Japan and Great Britain. I think we should have some doubts and qualifications when siding with the US . I don't believe the Chinese communists murdered millions of people like US propaganda claims they did. The US actually gave a lot of aid and support to the Soviets and are thus complicit in the many crimes that occurred under their rule. It's all very messy.

It's propaganda Ralph. Look at the picture of the "starving" children in Shanghai. They look surprisingly healthy don't they - what's with that?. A lot of the statistics of deaths are just wild guesses that include infant mortality, suicides and people dying of old age after being sent to the countryside- all rounded up to the closest ten million. The Guardian article proves my point really. Sure many died of malnutrition and lack of medical treatment in their old age but it wasn't technically murder so much as poor management. Very few people were actively murdered. Even the Red Guards hardly killed anyone although they did mistreat people. Eye witness stories are notorious for being untrustworthy. By the same token you could say that the British murdered eight million Indian people during WW2 because they exported all the grain back to Europe at that time.

"It's propaganda" - are you serious? Are you going to deny the Holocaust next? Maybe Pol Pot was just misunderstood? The Great Leap forward millions starve to death not because of poor management but as a deliberate policy. The rightist purge killed at least 1.5 million, and the cultural revolution killed 1.5 million probably more and totally destroyed traditional Chinese culture. The one-child policy has resulted in forced abortions, sterilization, as well as a high rate of infanticide. Tibetan culture has collapsed, millions of religious minorities are heavily persecuted on a daily basis. The CCP is the most murderous regime in the history of humanity - that's not propaganda.

I call Godwin's Law. This discussion is over.

Meh. Cop out.

Actually I'd love to carry on but I don't think David C would want us to. Readers will have to come to their own conclusions as to which position is the more sane. Always remember the first casualty of war though.

Well, yeah, I've done plenty of reading on China from sources local and foreign. They're no bastion of human rights.

Sure, you may argue that many deaths came from stupidity - e.g. the famine deaths - rather than intent to murder; that much is true. But in my experience of reading up there's plenty of culpability for many other acts, including in imperialistic actions such as approach to Tibet, not least treatment of their own people, an area in which communist parties have never particularly excelled once in power (compared to right-leaning dictatorships who generally target "others" whether inside or outside their country).

I thought the Godwin's Law call was a tad early, that's all, given the holocaust was only mentioned in reference to historical revisionism, that being the core of the user's reply to you.

None of this is to excuse American imperialism, which was arguably the previous latest entrant to the cycle of imperialism, nor its greatest criminals such as Henry Kissinger (on whom I'd agree with Christopher Hitchens, that there is a great case for regarding as a war criminal).

I agree Rick. I'm not a China apologist it's just that AK79's comments seem overwrought and one eyed, like an old school NeoCon rattling a sabre. Our views are probably very similar on these things. I actually regarded myself as a NeoCon once so I understand the attitude. I have also asked older Chinese people how many people they knew that perished during those times and I have yet to find any that knew of any that were murdered. Some knew people who had committed suicide and others had relatives that lost homes and were denied medical treatment on account of being members of the Kuomintang. I like to ask immigrants about these things

Goodwin's law - hahaha. Z. Smith you got called on BS and now you want to hide. The policy of the CPC and the Soviets were the same under Stalin and Mao. There was plenty of food but it was denied to areas with the known result of mass starvation. I am not a Neo-Con, I am just saying the the PRC is brutal regime that shares little with the values of NZ. I am unsure why that is controversial?

I'm not hiding. I have given reasoned responses unlike your Cold War boilerplate. Would you advocate severing all trade with China then?
Do you personally buy things that are made in China?

When did I say we need to sever trade with China - I said if we need to make a choice we should side with the US..

I didn't say you did. I was just wondering if you lived up to your rhetoric. It's like, "they're the worst of the worst!... but that doesn't stop me buying stuff at their shop" sort of thing.
Actually all I was reacting to originally was your assertion that we must pick the US without doubt or qualification. I think we can have doubts especially if the US does a Gulf of Tonkin or something. Also China referring to itself as The Middle Kingdom is not particularly ominous. From their pov they are in the middle of a hostile world. You must remember China has no friends or allies.
But of course when push comes to shove we will be there alongside our usual brothers in arms.

America can do no good no matter what it does.It is always wrong according to Pilger.
The problem is that people actually believe him.
It's a pity he doesn't do an expozay of the political process in China.

USA has a lot to answer for. Their military spending is equal to the next seven largest defense forces around the world combined. And they don't just sit at home and train like China's army. You know, like a true defense force should... They have constantly been at war in multiple foreign countries at any one time for many decades. Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, ordered one bomb to be dropped in anger every 20 minutes in 2016. Including demolishing another Nobel Peace Price receivers hospital while they were caring for wounded inside. How many more bombs do you think they need to drop till they have spread enough peace around the world, and won their unwinnable war against terrorism?

Have a look at what the Chinese "defense" force is doing in Tibet, SCS, as well as a few African countries. The communists are mostly content with harassing and murdering its own citizen (and Tibetans) at the moment but that will change. I never said the US is perfect but the US' principles we can agree with even when it doesn't always live up to them. The CPC's principles we can never.

Just the other week hundreds of civilians were killed in Anglo-American bombing runs over Mosul.
I'm not actually particularly anti-American I just caution against being stupidly uncritical and being gullible concerning ridiculous casualty claims that only the other side seem to inflict.
This can lead to great slaughter like the time there were reports that Westerners were being murdered in Beijing and we sent an army rampaging in, burning and looting all the way and once they got there (they spent three days burning and looting the palaces) and guess what? When they got there the Westerners were all being looked after well. Same happened in Manila at the end of WW2 where the Americans flattened the city and killed tens of thousands of Filipinos partly in an effort to save some captured nurses who were all found safe and sound.

I never said the US was perfect. However, my point is on ideals. The US' ideals are ones we as a nation can agree with. The same cannot be said for the PRC.

"The Iraq War was only partly, however, about big profits for Anglo-American oil conglomerates - that would be a bonus (one which in the end has failed to materialise to the degree hoped for - not for want of trying though).

The real goal - as Greg Muttitt documented in his book Fuel on the Fire citing declassified Foreign Office files from 2003 onwards - was stabilising global energy supplies as a whole by ensuring the free flow of Iraqi oil to world markets "


It's probably best that you are not in charge of NZs foreign policy. We are a very small mouse in a room with 2 very large elephants and our task is to avoid being trampled underfoot by either of them,if at all possible.
Geographically,we are an Asian nation and our economic ties to China will continue to grow. We cannot automatically side with the US in a dispute between them and China,unless in the worst case of actual war and then our decision would be irrelevant anyway.
Your perception of China as a communist country is well out of date. Of course it is not a democracy,but it does not aspire to be one. It will remain a one party state,but one in which personal wealth is not only permitted,but encouraged. Jack Ma of Alibaba is one of the world's wealthiest men.

New Zealand is not an Asian nation. What is your background linklater01?

Not geography or economics, judging by most of his comments.


Please tell me what is wrong with either my geography or my economics.Would you be happier if I amended it to Pacific/Asian nation, Would you deny that our economy is increasingly tied to the Asian market and in particular,the Chinese market?


I suggest that you look at a map,then our trade figures. Of course,culturally,most of us have our roots in Europe and I have a long Scottish heritage,of which I am very proud. Most of my family come from the Orkneys and Linklater can be traced back to Viking roots.
Whether we like it or not,NZ's future is increasingly tied to Asia.

I looked at the map and NZ is not part of Asia, it is part of Australasia and Oceania. I don't see how trade figures are particularly relevant. I think if you were able to pick NZ up and plonk it into the middle of Asia it still wouldn't be Asian. What happens in the future is still under discussion but I thought it was all about globalisation.
I think at the core of nearly every comment on this forum is the desire to emphatically retain New Zealand's personality and ensure that it does not become Asian or South American or something like that. Hence your comment is triggering.

Never was a "wtf" more appropriate...

Forget the mouse, let's be a scorpion.

>"Jack Ma of Alibaba is one of the world's wealthiest men."

Who accidentally praised China's lack of respect for intellectual property, only to later try to backtrack.

"Oh, no, it's not our pit bull in our back garden. We just feed it, but it's wild, honest."

We are far enough removed from the conflict that we can sell guns, I mean milk powder & manuka honey, to both sides. We'll make a killing off of their war.