A fork in the road for China

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A fork in the road for China

Diplomacy is an art form that requires as much delicacy as handling an object made of bone china. Its fragility cannot be ignored among allies as well as enemies. The sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan has become like a delicate bone china object between Seoul and Beijing.

Both must tread with extreme care and delicacy in dealing with the problem. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flew to Seoul yesterday to discuss the matter with President Lee Myung-bak, in hopes of reaching a constructive answer.

China is a fence-sitter on the Cheonan case, undecided on which side to support. To China, the South Korean market has become too valuable to easily ignore. The two countries have expanded their strategic partnership to seek a free trade agreement.

Then again, North Korea is China’s blood brother. They are like a crocodile and the crocodile bird, indispensable to one another. That’s why no matter how many times North Korea causes trouble, China inevitably has to embrace the problem state. It is a tough choice, but Beijing must now come down from the fence one way or another.

Dealing with fine bone china requires care and speed. One must install the porcelain as quickly as possible with great care.

The Global Times, a sister paper of the People’s Daily run by the Chinese Communist Party, in a recent editorial urged Pyongyang to either quickly prove its innocence in the Cheonan sinking or else admit its involvement. Beijing leaders have begun to pressure Pyongyang indirectly, suggesting that they acknowledge the validity of the evidence South Korea has produced.

The Chinese foreign ministry maintains it cannot comment on the case, but the editorial suggests the direction that Beijing is thinking of taking.

The escalating warfare and tension on the peninsula help no one. China’s duty is to reactivate the six-party talks platform that it chairs to denuclearize North Korea. It also cannot sit back comfortably while the United States increases its military presence in China’s backyard. The summit meeting between the Chinese and South Korean leaders should provide a direction in solving the Cheonan crisis.
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