China, U.S. at odds over South’s Kaesong stance

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China, U.S. at odds over South’s Kaesong stance

China and the United States seem to have taken conflicting stances on President Park Geun-hye’s decision to withdraw all workers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The U.S. “fully understands and supports” Seoul’s decision to evacuate the inter-Korean complex, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said during a trip to Seoul on Sunday after visiting Beijing. He was responding to Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se’s explanation of the events that led to South Korea’s removal of remaining personnel.

On the other hand, Chinese media were critical of the move over the weekend.

The official Xinhua News Agency ran a report on Sunday quoting Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University, who said South Korea stands to lose more than the North after the Kaesong closure. The article asserted that a total shutdown would cost the South $1 trillion per year, while the North would lose $87 million annually. It also said, “The livelihoods of some 300,000 people living in that area are directly reliant on the Kaesong Industrial Complex.”

Some outlets singled out the U.S. role in the conflict for criticism.

The People’s Daily ran an editorial on Sunday critical of the “endless game of go” between the North and South, adding that “the U.S. is the greatest beneficiary of the threats on the Korean Peninsula.”

China’s Global Times, a sister paper of the state-run People’s Daily, said that “South Korea shutting down the Kaesong Industrial Complex and other acts that threaten North Korea are not courageous.”

The Global Times said in an English editorial last Wednesday that was titled “Vicious cycle on peninsula needs to be broken.”

“The U.S. finds enough opportunities and conditions to implement the rebalancing strategy by manipulating hot spots like the Korean nuclear issue and other problems with a final aim to establish rules and orders dominated by the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region,” it added.

Jia Qingguo, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Beijing University, told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that “even in China’s eyes, it does not seem to be a wise method,” referring to the Kaesong shutdown. He added that the move may have a “big economic impact on North Korea.”

He said that China’s policy on North Korea is changing, as can be seen through Beijing agreeing to tough sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council as well as multiple warnings to the North made by Premier Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders.

A Beijing source stated yesterday that the Chinese government sent an official notice earlier this month to all related departments to strictly enforce sanctions imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2094 passed in March in response to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February.

The notice named three individuals and two blacklisted entities, and forbade transactions with them. It also banned the export and import of eight luxury items, including yachts and fine jewelry, to the North in accordance with the resolution.

“Kim Jong-un needs time to adjust, and [Seoul and Washington] shouldn’t rush,” Jia added. “Kim Jong-un also needs China, so he may visit before the year ends.”


By Sarah Kim, Choi Hyung-kyu [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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