[EDITORIALS]Agreement is fragileYesterday’s South Korea-China summit had the same importance as the UN Security Council meeting on North Korea’s nuclear test. The two countries have borders with North Korea, and give it the most economic support. In particular, China is North Korea’s closest ally, and the chair country of the six-party talks. Thus the policies of China and South Korea are a key variable in the UN’s dealings with Pyongyang.
The two countries confirmed that the nuclear test was unacceptable and that North Korea must abide by its promise to denuclearize. They also urged North Korea to avoid any action that could aggravate the situation and return to the six-party talks. This means that China and South Korea have established a strong framework for working together; neither will acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear power and each demanded North Korea abandon its nuclear programs. This agreement was desirable; it meant the two countries stayed in step with the UN and the current position of the UN Security Council.
Yet, the two countries left open the possibility of friction with the UN in the future, if the UN intensifies its actions against the North. Both South Korea and China attached the condition that their support will only be given to “necessary and proper” measures; which seems to imply that the two countries will oppose military sanctions. It also appears that two will carefully monitor financial sanctions. As a South Korean official put it, “We will participate if the financial sanctions are effective and if they are in concert with what the two leaders confirmed to be necessary and proper.”
When the UN Security Council presents its first draft resolution on financial sanctions, South Korea and China will submit it to careful scrutiny to make sure it suits their own interests. South Korea has the Kaesong Industrial Complex to protect. More crucially, China supplies 90 percent of North Korea’s oil and they exchange thousands of truckloads of goods every month.
Yesterday’s summit meeting was only the start. Soon, when the UN resolution is enforced, there is the risk of more conflict between the nations involved. In that case, the UN Security Council’s sanctions are bound to lose their impact and North Korea wil try to make use of that. If South Korea again takes an ambiguous attitude toward North Korea, differences between South Korea and the United States are bound to deepen. In that case, how can we guarantee the protection of the nuclear umbrella?