Seoul must take the initiative ... nowThe joint statement from presidents Park Geun-hye of South Korea and Xi Jinping of China following their first summit in Beijing is expected to set the tone of international endeavors to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Seoul and Beijing over the past few years looked the other way when it came to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development. China consistently stressed three key principles on Korean Peninsula ? denuclearization, peace and security, and dialogue. It has tilted more toward saving face for North Korea. It employed the same language of Pyongyang ? denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula instead of pointing to North Korea.
In the latest joint statement, however, Beijing called for more efforts to denuclearize “North Korea” instead of the “Korean Peninsula” and used more specific and pointed language. South Korea expressed concern about North Korean nuclear development and both countries agreed that the weapons program is “a serious threat” to regional stability. The statement also underscored the importance of expediting United Nations Security Council resolutions that include international sanctions against North Korea as well as the Sept. 19, 2005, joint declaration calling on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons campaign in exchange for economic aid as evidence Beijing’s more outspokenness toward Pyongyang.
The two countries also agreed to maintain a channel for strategic dialogue and to meet regularly on the diplomatic and security front. South Korea, the United States and China have established a united front toward solving the North Korea nuclear problem through recent bilateral summits among them. Declaration of a joint front raises hope for synchronization between Seoul and Beijing on North Korea’s nuclear program.
More important from now on is to take practical actions on the agreement. Beijing expressed willingness to play a more aggressive role to defuse North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Strategies and conditions must be laid to encourage Beijing to play out that verbal commitment. It would be a good start for Seoul to try harder to improve ties with Pyongyang. Seoul must act on the so-called trust process that President Park Geun-hye proposed to upgrade inter-Korean ties, an idea that has support from both Beijing and Washington. South Korea must come up with feasible action plan to take initiative to resolve North Korean nuclear issue.