Enhanced China relationsIn a summit meeting yesterday, President Lee Myung-bak and President Hu Jintao of China agreed on a joint declaration to realize their strategic and cooperative partnership.
They also agreed to increase exchanges among senior officials of the two countries to enhance cooperation in economic, cultural and also in sensitive diplomatic and military fields. In the 16 years since the two nations normalized ties, relations have improved rapidly.
Close Korea-China relations are of great importance to Korea.
First, it is important to our economy. Last year, trade volume with China was $145 billion, similar to our combined trade volumes with the United States and Japan. China is Korea’s biggest trade partner. Economic exchanges with China have become an important factor for the development of Korea’s economy.
To resolve North Korea’s nuclear issue, China’s cooperation is absolutely necessary. In this sense, it is meaningful that Korea and China have decided to pursue joint projects in 34 areas dealing with Korean-Sino relations, the region and military cooperation. The two countries have enhanced military cooperation little by little. In the summit meeting, a plan to have senior officials from their militaries visit each other more often was put in writing, a clear sign the nations want to enhance military cooperation.
However, we can’t be overly optimistic about the future of Korea-China relations.
There are some factors that could freeze ties up.
The issue of Ieodo, a submerged rock in the West Sea that China claims as its territory, and the Northeast Project that distorts Korea’s ancient history are examples.
During the Beijing Olympic Games, Koreans and Chinese seem to have developed hard feelings toward each other. The two states must consult with each other to make sure these issues don’t spin out of control.
Improved Korea-China relations challenge Korea diplomatically with regard to Korea-U.S. relations.
China harbored unpleasant feelings, believing that the Lee administration prioritizes the United States while it views China as unimportant.
Even if it was resolved this time, the same problem will likely surface again if similar circumstances arise. However, it is out of the question for Korea to damage the Korea-U.S. alliance. A balanced strategy for diplomacy is urgently needed.