[VIEWPOINT]Jiang's Visit to North Opens New DoorsChinese President Jiang Zemin has returned to Beijing after his three-day visit to North Korea. His visit triggered enormous public interests because the triangular coalition between Beijing, Moscow and Pyongyang was renewed after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited China and Russia.
Mr. Jiang's recent visit indicates that China-North Korea diplomatic relations, which had been broken off after Korea and China formed diplomatic ties in 1992 and the former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung died, are now normalized. At the same time, Mr. Jiang's visit hints that Beijing and Pyongyang is recovering the friendly relations that existed before 1992. Yet, China's policy toward the Korean Peninsula is determined based on post-ideological principles of respecting the concept of independence; restoration of China-North Korea relations does not mean the two countries will automatically go back to the condition that existed before Beijing and Seoul tied the diplomatic knot. Therefore, improvement and development of relations between Beijing and Pyongyang will become an opportunity in which the two countries could normalize relations based on national interests and the principle of reciprocity.
Mr. Jiang's visit to Pyongyang was planned through the communist parties of the two countries, as was North Korean leader Kim's visit to China. The scale of Mr. Jiang's entourage was the largest ever since the People's Republic of China was established. China put the most effort into reviving the Communist Party's relations with the North Korean Worker's Party and repairing various cooperation channels with the North, which were destroyed after Beijing formed diplomatic relations with Seoul. Considering China's priorities, it has won tangible gains through the visit.
China has assumed advantageous positions to resolve the issues on the Korean Peninsula and has avoided becoming passive in dealing with strategies on Northeast Asia. Through the visit, the Chinese government sought to improve inter-Korean relations, which have been on ice since the new U.S. administration was launched. Beijing likely advised the North, which puts priority on improving relations with the United States, to establish a foundation for improving U.S.-North Korea ties through indirect approaches, such as resuming inter-Korean talks and realizing tangible outcome from cooperation. North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland's proposal to resume inter-Korean talks immediately, made before Mr. Jiang's visit, reflects China's advice. The North's proposal this time is an outcome thoroughly discussed in working-level negotiations with China. Announcing the proposal before Mr. Jiang's visit rather than after the China-North Korea summit will show the decision to resume talks with Seoul has been made independently by the North.
Therefore, inter-Korean relations likely will present a breakthrough this time, including North Korean leader Kim's reciprocal visit to Seoul. If the North believed South Korea's political condition does not support such a visit, Mr. Kim could attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Shanghai next month to realize the second inter-Korean summit.
China's support and role in opening and reforming the North were the most interesting issues in Mr. Jiang's visit. He was accompanied by Wang Huning, deputy director of the Policy Research Office of the Communist Party, who plays the key role in the "Three Emphases" policy. With Mr. Wang, Mr. Jiang likely explained China's experiences of how to minimize the side effects of reform and market opening on a socialist society and maximize economic development, which believes that reform and opening would cause its system to collapse. Based on such explanations, China likely urged the North to reform and open.
Now that China has formed cooperative relations with Seoul and normalized relations with the North, it has the power to play an active and constructive role in resolving the issues on the Korean Peninsula. We should concentrate on maximizing the benefits from China's useful function to resolve these issues.
The writer is professor of Chinese studies at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security.
by Park Doo-bok