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Nuke fears building new power blocs

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posted on Mar, 25 2003 @ 09:37 PM

Nuke fears building new power blocs
March 26 2003

While the United States has been preoccupied with Iraq, a shuffling of alliances is taking place in North-East Asia, accelerated by the US failure to defuse the North Korean nuclear crisis, according to government officials and analysts.

The result is likely to be a crumbling of Cold War ties and a lessening of US power and prestige in a region where the US has held sway for 50 years, they said.

The key shift is on the Korean Peninsula, where South Koreans and their new government are increasingly unwilling to play the role of the US's loyal supporter.

The result is a weakening of the two three-legged alliances that have defined relations in the region ever since Soviet and Allied forces came nose-to-nose on the Korean Peninsula at the end of World War II: the US, Japan and South Korea on one side, and Russia, China and North Korea on the other.

Other political reorderings are undoing those old power blocs. China and Russia now set their foreign policies on pragmatic terms, not ideology.

North Korea's ties to its former communist allies have become more strained as China and Russia look disapprovingly at Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Even Japan, while remaining the most determined ally of the US, is reaching out to old enemies. It forged a historic agreement with North Korea last September with only cursory consultation with Washington, and is improving relations with China, South Korea and Russia.

The Korean Peninsula is often said to be one of the few places in the world where the Cold War endures. Experts say the dispute over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons fuel has caused governments to look more urgently at other potential partners.

Elsewhere in the region, governments are beginning to question longstanding policies. Only the mutual interdependence of Japan and the US remains unshaken.

But even Tokyo quietly joined other allies in resisting Washington's hardline approach to North Korea. The Bush Administration turned for help to China, but has found Beijing resentful of Washington.

"This crisis is most serious, in that it could cost us our relations with the whole region," said Selig Harrison, the director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy, a Washington research organisation.

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