Park awarded straight A’s for China summit

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Park awarded straight A’s for China summit

President Park Geun-hye concluded her four-day China summit on Sunday to positive public responses, as well as positive evaluations from experts in China, South Korea and the United States on her bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation gave the summit an “A-” mark and told the Korea JoongAng Daily that Park “achieved a number of policy objectives, including establishing good personal and professional rapport with President Xi.”

Kim Heung-kyu of Sungshin Women’s University also gave an “A-,” while International Studies Professor Cheng Xiaohe of Renmin University gave the summit an “A.”

Klingner said, “South Korea and China affirmed a common viewpoint” on North Korea, though there is likely to be “considerable difference in the means” to achieving those goals. Park “demonstrated her diplomatic prowess” in summits with the United States and China,” he said.

But Klingner also added that while Park gained “significant Chinese agreement on North Korea,” she didn’t get Beijing to promise increased pressures, and Beijing has yet to “blame North Korea as the source of heightened tensions” on the peninsula and the collapse of the six-party talks.”

Kim said that the joint statement will “serve as a foundation for a basis of good relations between the two leaders and translate into actions to stabilize” bilateral relations between the two countries.

Cheng applauded the joint statement and stated, “The two countries’ relations, due to the summit, have risen to a new high. The two leaders not only agreed on key principles but took concrete steps toward the strategic goals.”

But the experts believe there were aspects of the summit that did not meet expectations.

“I think the two countries’ statements on denuclearizing North Korea were around 50 percent in agreement with each other,” Cheng said, “and it’s regretful they did not touch the subject of military cooperation.”

Kim said the two nations were about 88 percent in agreement on North Korean denuclearization but that China didn’t make its stance clear enough. “It seems like China is taking into consideration future negotiations with the North and is avoiding putting extreme pressure on Pyongyang.”

Klingner likewise said that China’s post-summit statements “don’t contain any references to pressure on North Korea” and that Beijing’s comments were “characteristically bland.” He argued that Xi merely re-emphasized “China’s persistence in keeping peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula” and that “China adheres to the principle that the issue be solved through dialogue and consultation.”

“Although Park’s policy is more pragmatic and less ideological than those of Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung, it remains hostage to North Korean behavior,” Klingner said, referring to Park’s policy of trust-building on the Korean Peninsula.

Park has drawn from her predecessors’ North Korea policies but the problem remains as to which parts to adopt and “focus on,” said Kim. “Right now, it’s difficult to determine whether this trust-building process is really in operation.”

But the fact that Xi met first with Park before meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may also be the latest sign that Beijing is distancing itself from Pyongyang.

“The relationship between China and South Korea, which has grown closer than that of China and North Korea, will be difficult to switch in the near future,” said Cheng. “The previously close relationship that North Korea has enjoyed with China has already been broken.”

President Xi agreed to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and placed hopes for an early return to the six-party talks to both U.S. President Barack Obama and Park. But Klingner said Washington and Beijing have “strongly divergent principles and objectives” in regard to North Korea, adding that China has not yet “singled out North Korea for criticism.”

Regarding Beijing’s “new pressure tactics,” such as the Bank of China cutting off business with North Korea’s central trading bank, Klingner pointed out that such measures were tried before in 2005 after a private visit from U.S. government officials.

“To overly-emphasize personal trust could be dangerous,” added Kim in regard to the blossoming relationship between Park and Xi. “But building personal rapport between leaders as the foundation of the countries’ strategic understanding is considerably important and necessary for the two countries’ cooperation.”


BY CHANG SE-JEONG, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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