Zhang Liangui's profile: Zhang Liangui is a professor at the International Institute of Strategic Studies under the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Zhang enjoys the State Council Special Allowance. From July 1964 to February 1968, he studied at Kim Il-sung University in North Korea.
Zhang Liangui's viewpoint: A war is likely to break out on the Korean Peninsula as both the US and North Korea will not make concessions to each other. North Korea has closed the door for further negotiations and its determination of developing nuclear weapons remains unchanged. Therefore, the conditions are getting closer to a point where the US will launch a war against North Korea.
North Korea to persist with nuclear plan
Following the March Resolution 2270 passed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea, the isolated country immediately fought back by launching several short-range guided missiles.
"After the approval of the Resolution 2270, countries are specifying details of the implementation plans. It will need 4-6 months to know how well the sanctions will work," said Zhang Liangui.
North Korea has publically announced that it will not give up its nuclear weapon development plan and has shut down the channels for negotiation. In addition, the possession of nuclear weapons has been written into the North Korean constitution. Based on these facts, North Korea will not return to the negotiating table, predicted Zhang.
North Korea has 'channels' to deal with sanctions
Zhang said that North Korea has made enough preparations for the new stricter sanctions, based on its previous tough response to the UNSC resolutions.
Before its latest nuclear test in January, North Korea had well prepared for a possible war or sanctions. They have established some "channels" to deal with the sanctions, and they will continue the nuclear plan, which will nullify the sanctions in a large part and will intensify the tension on the Korean Peninsula, according to Zhang, who refused to disclose what the "channels" are.
The central party school professor predicted that North Korea may well conduct a fifth nuclear test this year. "In its third nuclear test, North Korea conducted an experiment for the miniaturization of its nuclear weapon. Technically speaking, North Korea's test for miniaturizing its nuclear weapon is not mature. Therefore, it will continue to follow the path to the miniaturization of its nuclear weapon," said Zhang.
US will not soften stance on nuclear issue
Zhang said the key problem is that both the US and North Korea don't want to make compromises.
The US has completely lost credit with North Korea, said Zhang. On February 29, 2012, the US and North Korea signed an agreement, which allowed the US to give North Korea 24 tons of nutritious food in exchange for the isolated country's drop of its nuclear and missile plans. But on March 4, 2012, North Korea launched a satellite using banned ballistic missile technology, which peeved the US and proved that Kim Jong Un was really a troublemaker.
With the US and North Korea at daggers drawn, President Obama visited Cuba to re-establish diplomatic ties with the Caribbean island nation. When asked whether the US and North Korea will follow suite, Zhang said that the precondition of the US establishing a diplomatic relationship with a once-hostile nation is denuclearization. The US can establish diplomatic ties with any country, no matter what political system they adopt, if they pledge to drop the nuclear plan, said Zhang.
Other reasons why the US is tough on the North Korean nuclear issue are that the US cares about the security of its allies in the region and it wants to maintain its international image because it is a key advocate of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), according to Zhang.
War is imminent
Zhang is not optimistic about the situation on the Korean Peninsula, saying that it is very likely that a war will break out on China's doorstep.
"A direct military conflict cannot be avoided if the US and North Korea keep their positions unchanged," said Zhang.
This trend can be seen in the US' aggressive military drill with South Korea, which targeted the seize of nuclear facilities and crossing the river to the North, said Zhang, compared with previous US-North Korea military exercises which focused on defense. As North Korea has closed the door for further negotiations, the US intends to solve the North Korean nuclear issue by force, noted Zhang.
China, South Korea not obstacles to war
Under Clinton's presidency, the US had plans to overturn the North Korean regime by force, but it was stopped by China and South Korea due to economic and social factors. Zhang thought that the situation is different as President Park Geun-hye has made clear that her government will take a tough line on North Korea.
Zhang said that South Korea's intellectuals and elite have realized that the North Korean nuclear plan will pose a big challenge to the national security and that South Koreans will live under the nuclear shadow if the problem cannot be solved.
Zhang also predicted that China will not militarily intervene in the war between the US and North Korea.
"The current situation is different from the 1950s. The Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance cannot justify military intervention of China in case of a war. In addition, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the wish of the international community and coincides with China's interests. There are no domestic or international conditions for China to launch a war (like the Korean War breaking out in the 1950s)," said Zhang.
(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi.)