North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stayed in Vietnam for two more days in early March after his second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi. In his meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, Kim sought to promote mutual understanding and share experience with Vietnam on nation building and socioeconomic development.
Some North Korean officials who accompanied Kim went on field trips to learn from Vietnam's development experience. All this has been interpreted as North Korea's probable attempt to emulate the "Vietnam model."
Previously, Pyongyang firmly resisted the "Libya model" that Washington proposed. During US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Vietnam in July 2018, he said North Korea could enjoy an economic miracle akin to Vietnam's if it wished. US President Donald Trump again peddled the "Vietnam model" during the Hanoi summit.
Analysts believe Hanoi had a broad symbolism in hosting the second Kim-Trump summit: Washington could grab the opportunity to convince Pyongyang to cooperate so that North Korea could realize a miracle as Hanoi did. However, this could be just US' wishful thinking.
Will North Korea follow the "Vietnam model?" The answer is no.
There are indeed similarities between Vietnam and North Korea. Both are socialist countries, have adopted a planned economy, and had engaged wars with the US as well as wish to end hostility and normalize relations with Washington.
The repatriation of remains of soldiers was a key to unlocking US-Vietnam tensions. After Vietnam withdrew troops from Cambodia, the US began talks with Vietnam in November 1991 to normalize relations. But the key to improving North Korea-US ties lies in denuclearization.
From the perspective of North Korea, the "Vietnam model" is not very ideal or successful.
First, the "Vietnam model" is not a speedy way to development for Pyongyang. North Korea has possessed conditions for rapid development, such as abundant underground resources, which can be exported to China and South Korea whenever a good timing shows up, a large science and technology talent pool, and powerful national defense technology that can be transformed to civilian use.
Second, North Korea's geopolitical value is higher than Vietnam's. Once economic development is on track, Pyongyang will receive enormous support from neighboring China and South Korea, which are not averse to investing in infrastructure in North Korea. If Pyongyang's ties with Tokyo normalize, it might get a compensation of about $20 billion from Japanese government. Vietnam never had all this.
Third, although both North Korea and Vietnam are countries led by communist parties, there are clear differences. The Vietnamese government has checks and balances built into the governance model with the president, prime minister, and chairman of the National Assembly at the top. But North Korea has maintained a centralized rule. It is currently focusing on restoring and developing the economy but hasn't signed a peace treaty with the US. The US-South Korea alliance is still a real threat to North Korea. As a result, Pyongyang will maintain its current political structure in the middle and long term.
Fourth, large foreign direct investment is the main impetus behind Vietnam's development. So, the country's opening-up is all-round.
However, in the first place, North Korea would probably choose the border and coastal areas to open up as special economic zones or development areas, just like China's development path.
China's reform and opening-up began after the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee held in November 1978, which was related to the normalization of relations between Beijing and Washington in the wake of late US president Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972. Without improved security, it is unrealistic for North Korea to go ahead with reform and opening-up or integrate into the international economic order.
It can be said that a government adjusting its focus, normalizing relations with other countries, and joining international organizations are three stages which a country passes through from being isolated to opening up and launching reforms.
Kim has established a string of special economic zones and economic development areas after becoming the top leader of North Korea. These are the core of the country's opening-up, but international sanctions have seriously limited them from functioning.
Pyongyang began to focus on its economy since April 20, 2018. How to normalize relations with the US is the next concern of the North Korean government and it closely relates to denuclearization.
The reason Pyongyang negotiated on denuclearization was seeking a good security environment for development. If North Korea wants to achieve economic development, it must normalize relations with the US.
Copy Editor/Kang Sijun
Author: Li Chunfu is an adjunct fellow at The Charhar Institute and an associate professor at the Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University
Source: Global Times, 2019-03-07
Original Link: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1141329.shtml