Cheonan diplomacyDiplomacy surrounding the Cheonan incident is at its peak. With the announcement of the results of the joint military and civilian investigation coming soon, Korea, the United States and China are engaging in a flurry of diplomatic maneuvers. All the related parties have been actively weighing their own diplomatic responses to the incident in case the investigation team concludes that North Korea was behind the tragic sinking of the South Korean warship.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the matter with Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Dai Bingguo for over an hour yesterday. Clinton may visit South Korea on her way to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing on May 24. Yesterday Sung Kim - the U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks who accompanied Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, to Beijing - met with his South Korean counterparts in Seoul, and our Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon left for Washington. Meanwhile, the Korean, Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers’ meeting will be held in Gyeongju on Saturday and Sunday. We believe the Cheonan incident should be the main topic for discussion at the meeting.
The Gyeongju meeting is a precursor to the Korea-China-Japan summit in Jeju set for late this month. The summit was expected to cover cooperation between the three countries on issues including the free trade agreement and the East Asia Summit. But following the Cheonan incident, that should be the top priority.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Yellow Sea is almost an inland sea shared by Korea, China and Japan because a great amount of maritime trade is conducted among them. Guaranteeing a safe transportation route there is vital to all three countries. Therefore, the sudden death of 46 South Korean Navy soldiers does not pertain to Korea alone; China and Japan should also recognize it is their issue, too. All three countries should deal with the incident in collaboration with each other.
The government should explain the investigation results to China and Japan in full detail and draw up plans for a joint reaction. When it becomes clear who is responsible for the incident, it would be in the best interests of China and Japan to join international efforts to penalize the culprit and ensure such incidents do not recur.
The government also needs to make it clear to both China and Japan that the six-party talks will be affected by the investigation results. China needs to understand that its participation in resolving the Cheonan incident is the right response for the nation that it hopes to become.