[EDITORIALS]China lectures the North

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[EDITORIALS]China lectures the North

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent visit to North Korea can be seen as meaningful in many ways. First, it is reported that Mr. Hu and the North’s leader Kim Jong-il agreed on the principle of a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear situation. While this in itself might not sound so remarkable, the attitude shown by China adds new significance.
The Chinese president used a significant part of a dinner speech to explain China’s economic development, an unprecedented choice. Mr. Hu even quoted statistics including the fact that China’s gross national product increased more than tenfold from $147.3 billion to $1.65 trillion since it opened its markets. It was as if Mr. Hu was lecturing his audience of North Korean leaders on how to survive in the 21st century. The lesson of the day: there is no choice but to reform and open up. At the same time, Mr. Hu reminded them in a roundabout way that it was imperative to solve the nuclear issue to achieve this reform and liberalization. It is our utmost hope that Pyongyang’s leadership heeds Mr. Hu’s “friendly advice,” especially considering that the North’s economy has so deteriorated that now it is asking us for various daily utensils including shoes on top of rice and fertilizer.
North Korea and China demonstrated their steadfast friendship during Mr. Hu’s visit. To Mr. Kim’s remark that “the relationship between North Korea and China is one of a true solidarity bound by [the blood],” Mr. Hu answered that the two nations agreed to safeguard their common interests together in international society. It is also reported that China agreed to give a long-term loan of some $2 billion to North Korea. Some analysts already view this visit as the stepping-stone to revitalizing relations between China and North Korea, which soured after Beijing established diplomatic ties with South Korea in 1992. While we applaud China’s efforts to bring the North into international society, we must be wary of what challenges this shift in the political dynamics of Northeast Asia could bring to our foreign affairs.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration caused discord with the United States and Japan when it insisted on extricating itself from the existing Washington-Tokyo-Seoul triangle to play a role of balancer in the region. Recently, former U.S. ambassador to Seoul, Stephen Bosworth, commented that U.S.-Korea relations were at their lowest level in history. We need to objectively examine whether we are turning ourselves into a “loner” while the other trio of North Korea, China and Russia still remain close allies, and take appropriate measures.
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