[VIEWPOINT]Korea must watch the new ‘Great Game’

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[VIEWPOINT]Korea must watch the new ‘Great Game’

The Korean Provisional Government, the constitutional predecessor of the Republic of Korea, was born in Shanghai. In that city last week, the fifth summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was held. The organization has its roots in the “Shanghai Five” meeting held in 1996 for the peaceful settlement of the border disputes that shook the world with the end of the Cold War era. It consisted of China, Russia, and three Central Asian States once part of the Soviet empire: Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan.
Uzbekistan joined the meeting in 2001 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was launched as an international organization on June 15 of that year. Besides the sixmember states, Mongolia acquired observer status in 2004. Pakistan, India and Iran also joined the organization as observer states in 2005. At the moment, Belarus and Sri Lanka want to join the organization.
Held at a time when the Shanghai Cooperation Organi-zation is attracting Asian countries to its side with a strong sucking force, the summit meeting carries special implications for South Korea.
First is the nuclear issue. Iran, which wants to become a full-fledged member of the organization, is engaged in tense discussions on whether to accommodate a comprehensive incentive produced by six countries: the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.
Iran actively makes use of the organization as its international platform for publicity and the organization, on its part, is burnishing its international status through the Iranian nuclear issue.
In view of the pending North Korean nuclear problem, we have to pay attention to the future development of the issue.
Second are issues related to the expansion of membership and an incipient anti-U.S. alliance among the member states. Depending on how the rules on admission of new member-states are made, the entry of other Asian countries will be accelerated. The United States is groping for entry into the organization on the one hand, while on the other degrading it as a “dictator’s club.”
The world’s attention is riveted to the organization’s position on the possible deployment of U.S. forces, and whether Iran, which has a strong anti-American point of view, will join .
Third, the Shanghai organization, which began as an agency for cooperation in the economic and energy fields and on regional security, is now rapidly developing as an economic cooperation organization.
In the future, we cannot exclude the possibility that the organization will develop into a regional organization in northern Asia, comparable to ASEAN in the south.
The organization is closely linked to Chinese energy policy with the aim, among others, of transporting natural gas produced in its Xinjang Uighur Autonomous Region in the west to Shanghai in the east through a 4,200 km-long(2,600 miles) pipeline. At present the amount of oil produced by the organization’s member and observer countries accounts for about 23 percent of the world’s total.
The importance of the organization looms bigger when the rich energy resources in Russia and the Caspian Sea region are taken into account. In light of our need to secure energy resources, we should not passively watch the situation that is unfolding in Central Asia.
The fourth implication is cultural cooperation. The organization’s efforts to rediscover the cultural identity of the Eurasian continent are going to be supported by the effort to pursue cultural diversity that is taking root as an international standard.
Already the organization’s cultural diplomacy is exerting tremendous influence on central Asian countries’ “Eastward Policy.” It also means that these central Asian countries are getting closer to South Korea rapidly.
The principle of “the Great Game,” which formed the backdrop of the British occupation of Geomun Island off the southern coastline in 1885, is now re-emerging in the form of “the Great Chess Game” between the United States and the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Although the organization stand up to an imperialistic world order centering around the United States, in the eyes of contested territories such as Chechnya, Tibet and Taiwan ― which lie within the map on the organization’s logo ― the organization is nothing but another group of imperial forces.
The reason that the organization has taken up the anti-terrorism cause is not only for solidarity with the United States, but also to block the will for independence of minority races in the region.
Because of such duplicity inthe organization, South Korea will be forced to make a complicated choice.
As the organization rapidly expands its influence, building momentum from the summit meeting, it seems inevitable that South Korea’s existing policy on the organization should be changed to a certain degree in the non-security related fields.
It is a matter of urgency that we recognize the need for learning to read with watchful eyes, the grand chess game that is unfolding around the Korean Peninsula, which stands at the intersection of the United States and the Eurasian continent.

* The writer is a professor of international relations at Yonsei University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Myong-sob
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