Let’s cool off over China

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Let’s cool off over China

The government, suspecting North Korea after obtaining clear evidence that the naval corvette Cheonan was sunk by an external explosive attack, decided only to seek resumption of the six-party talks after resolving this crisis. The public has come to the consensus that the international criminals that torpedoed the naval ship and killed 46 sailors should be brought to justice. But the government has blundered through the affair.

The U.S. government has expressed support for the South Korean position to prioritize the resolution of the Cheonan crisis over the six-party talks. It has sympathized with Seoul from the beginning and through North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to China. To have such an ally is a great comfort to a nation dealing with an unprecedented security crisis.

Korea-U.S. relations are based on deep roots of reciprocity and friendship. There has been noise and disagreement over the years. But the two states have collaborated closely and agreed on nearly everything in the current administration. But they may not see eye-to-eye on how to unravel the Cheonan conundrum if nuclear and regional peace issues are added to the equation. The government must put forth extra diplomatic effort to maintain the alliance.

China is a different problem. Chinese leaders embraced North Korean leader Kim only couple of days after shaking hands with President Lee Myung-bak. The warm welcome to the Kim entourage is particularly offensive and annoying since it comes on the heels of South Koreans’ mourning the sailors killed on the Cheonan. Still, it is not sophisticated diplomatic maneuvering to respond emotionally to Chinese foreign affairs.

We should have taken the more subtle diplomatic approach of sending prior warnings and pleas ahead of Kim’s visit by gathering advance information about the planned event. But at such a critical time, South Korea’s ambassador to China was in the United States and Seoul on personal affairs. We have not done enough to send our message clearly to Beijing.

The government called in the Chinese ambassador to Seoul, as if to protest his country’s foreign agenda. Moreover, it was the unification minister, not the foreign minister, who met with the ambassador. Then officials scurried to downplay the fiasco.

China has shown its true face. But emotion will not solve anything. China has proven to be a formidable and shrewd diplomatic contestant, so the government must come up with a more thorough strategy to bring the country around to our side. The “strategic partnership” signed between the two countries last year must not be burned in fiery emotion and rhetoric.
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