[Viewpoint] Simultaneous, multi-strategy talks

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[Viewpoint] Simultaneous, multi-strategy talks

It was ironic that the United States, the world’s biggest superpower, was hit by a financial crisis in 2008, 30 years after the United States and China declared the normalization of ties in 1978.

China, also hit hard by the current crisis, has worked hard to achieve a great deal during this period. The Asian giant has displayed its potential through its attempts to make its currency, the yuan, international and challenging the dollar-oriented international financial order.

As if reflecting this reality, both China and the United States have started the Strategic and Economic Dialogue to discuss security and economic issues around the world.

The dialogue is held in Washington Monday and Tuesday, and will include members of the U.S. State Department and the Treasury.

Since the U.S. secretary of state has attended recent dialogues, the level of the dialogue is understood to have improved.

The agenda will include terrorism, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, energy security and economic and financial stability.

The North Korea issue is also likely to be included.

What’s interesting is North Korea has revealed its wish to have dialogue with the United States, shortly before the United States and China were to have dialogue.

Pyongyang’s UN Ambassador said on July 24 that North Korea did not oppose China having a dialogue with the United States or any compromises that the two countries would make on issues of mutual interest.

This is a calculated move for two reasons.

First, it is a reply to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s offer made during the Asean Regional Forum in Thailand last week for a renewed package of incentives in return for denuclearization.

It seems that North Korea wants to begin negotiations with the United States, using the release of the two U.S. journalists as bait, to ease sanctions and pressure.

The other reason is that North Korea wants to influence China’s stance before it enters into dialogue with the United States.

Shortly after North Korea’s second nuclear test in May, the United States reconfirmed its pledge to stop proliferation in Japan and South Korea, a thoughtful move for a China worried about the possibility of two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Pyongyang has shown its intention to talk with Washington probably because it wants to make sure that China does not return the favor during the Strategic and Economic Dialogue to Washington by taking up a position that would be disadvantageous to Pyongyang.

Considering the Washington-Beijing Strategic and Economic Dialogue and North Korea’s move, our government must be careful on several levels.

First, it must have sincere dialogue and consultation with China to match the title of relations: strategic cooperative partnership.

The Korea-U.S. alliance is the axis for our diplomacy and national security, but we must abandon the idea that as long as the Korea-U.S. alliance is strong, China will approach us. China’s power is growing too large for us to address it through the United States.

Second, Seoul and Washington must share the same strategic perception. It is not certain that China will fully meet the United States’ expectations during the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

China also wants North Korea to give up its nuclear development programs but it opposes any methods for the purpose that would burden China, such as the collapse of North Korea’s regime, which would produce countless North Korean refugees or cause economic chaos.

China benefited most from the six-party talks and now it calls on North Korea to return to the talks.

However, China is more likely to have a long-term plan by advising North Korea to have dialogue with the United States, instead of putting pressure on it.

While our government keeps up the pressure on North Korea, it must make sure that a Korea-U.S. alliance helps the six-party talks, dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang and dialogue between the two Koreas.

Finally, we need multidimensional strategies for our national interest.

Now that both cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo and cooperation between Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo seems to be on track, our government must make a great effort to realize talks between Seoul, Washington and Beijing.

The idea is to get Washington and Beijing to discuss with Seoul issues concerning the Korean Peninsula.

It could be a good idea to start a strategic dialogue between Seoul and Washington and another between Seoul and Beijing.

This is one possibility the government should take time to consider.


*The writer is a professor of international studies at Korea University Graduate School of International Studies.

by Kim Sung-han
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