The Korea Herald


[Wang Son-taek] Seven problems with the Asian version of NATO

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 14, 2023 - 05:34

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It is reported that a task force enactment has been introduced in the US Congress to consider establishing an Asian version of NATO. Mike Lawler, a US congressman from New York who proposed the initiative, argued in a press release that the Indo-Pacific Treaty Organization, an Asian version of NATO, was needed to respond to the rising threats facing the US and its allies. However, the organization could be misrepresented and not help many global villagers or the US itself. We can present a long list of why the idea is not helpful.

First, it can be wrong to assume that China is challenging American hegemony, as the former Soviet Union countered against the US during the Cold War period. The relationship between the US and China is mixed with competition, cooperation and confrontation. Congressman Lawler's experience suggests that partners in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are concerned about Chinese aggression, but in fact, what they are concerned about is its aggressive attitude. China has not declared its support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. North Korea has proposed China's participation in anti-American solidarity with Russia, but Beijing is keeping some distance from them. China might be a potential challenger against the US while continuing national growth. However, it is a grave misconception that the potential threat is regarded as the current threat.

Second, China is not destined to fight the US, unlike the Soviet Union in the Cold War. For the USSR, the national goal was to overthrow the capitalist world and implement socialism. Therefore, the US-led capitalist countries had no choice but to fight the socialist world. However, China is not trying to overthrow capitalism. On the contrary, China is practicing capitalism and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the market economy.

Third, there is a big difference between now and 1947, when the Cold War began. There was little interdependence in the global theater 76 years ago. It was possible to switch the relationship between allies and adversaries among nations by a nation's strategic decision. However, it is now almost impossible. Today, the world is a single community in which nearly all countries are intricately intertwined.

Fourth, the global village had a multipolar system in 1947. There were two leading nations, the US and the USSR. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the global village became a single community led by the US. There is a variety of debates about whether the US is good at maintaining order or not. However, the fact that the only hegemonic state is the US remains unchanged. Even China is a member of the community. China might be dreaming that it will become a hegemon someday. However, just one piece of a dream does not change the current world structure.

Fifth, Congressman Lawler described those threats from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as rising. Well, it is not rising, but declining. Indeed, we are still watching dictators and autocrats around the world. However, their space is getting smaller, and the number of people enjoying democracy, liberalism and human rights is getting bigger. Even if Russian President Vladimir Putin is elected again next year, it is not necessary to say that authoritarianism is dominating. Democratic development has shown a continuous trend of qualitative and quantitative growth on a 100-year basis rather than a 10-year basis.

Sixth, political and financial costs could be unnecessarily high for managing the Asian NATO, as the level of diversities in the Asian world is much higher than in the European world. The problem is that the US must spend massive amounts of money and political capital for the unnecessary job. As professor Paul Kennedy warned, the US cannot escape the contradiction of overstretch, and it is inevitable that China, the second-largest country, can get a chance to overtake the US. The Asian version of NATO is a concept that China thankfully wants and should be suggested by a spy serving China.

Seventh, a war was quite possible in the year of 1947 when the Cold War began. As a result, securing a sizable number of allies was vital, and their management was necessary. However, because the US-led unipolar order has been in place for more than 30 years, a war that the US does not allow has become virtually impossible. Some will say that war is substantially happening by mentioning the Russia-Ukraine war or the Israel-Hamas war.

Upon closer examination, however, there is a different picture. Russia, one of the most prominent military powers in the world, has not been able to capture a small state of Ukraine. Why? This is because the US and Western allies support Ukraine and keep Russia in check. Even the mighty Russia has proven unable to control a country within its sphere of influence. The Israel-Hamas war is not a regular state-to-state war. Hamas made a surprise attack on Israel and inflicted fatal losses. But since then, Israel has retaliated more than 10 times, exterminating Palestinians in Gaza like killing flies and mosquitoes. Israel's movement is more similar to police action rather than wartime military operations.

Rather than trying to isolate China, Russia and North Korea by uniting them, it is better to propose a solution that most countries can agree on. A good solution should include elements of liberalism, democracy, human rights and free trade. For several years, the US has shown a lack of competence or willingness to maintain the world order. Instead, it shows confrontation, a new cold war, selfishness and protectionism, disrupting the world's order. If the Asian version of NATO is pursued, not only the US but also all global villagers will shed blood and tears, resenting the US.

Wang Son-taek

Wang Son-taek is a director for the Global Policy Center at the Hanpyeong Peace Institute. He is a former diplomatic correspondent at YTN and a former research associate at Yeosijae. The views expressed here are his own. -- Ed.