Much depends on BeijingOn a trip to Beijing to attend China’s Victory Day ceremony today, President Park Geun-hye had a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping Wednesday. Her visit, not particularly favored by either the United States or Japan, was heartily welcomed by the Chinese government. Xi held a special luncheon exclusively for Park shortly after the summit to the envy of more than 30 leaders from other countries who received no such honor. Park’s meeting with Chinese Premier Le Keqiang followed in the afternoon. China even called Park’s name ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin from a list of invited guests and arranged to allow her to sit by Xi on the podium for the military parade.
The leaders reached meaningful agreements in the summit, as seen in the proclamation that they oppose any actions on the Korean Peninsula that raises tensions. At the same time, both leaders agreed to hold a trilateral summit among Korea, China and Japan in Korea to find a breakthrough in the ever-worsening Seoul-Tokyo and Beijing-Tokyo ties.
As half of diplomacy is protocol, how a foreign head of state is treated is a barometer of two nations’ relations. In that respect, China’s highly courteous treatment of Park shows how much significance Beijing attaches to its relations with Seoul. Yet, fancy diplomatic rhetoric and protocol without substance are not the answer to anything. Park went to China to promote Korea’s core national interests - like peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula - despite Uncle Sam’s tacit opposition.
We expect China to contribute to the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear ambition for the peace of Northeast Asia. Glimmers of hope vanished after the Obama administration proved itself utterly reluctant to address the conundrum despite its pivotal role.
After the six-point agreement between Seoul and Pyongyang at Panmunjom, inter-Korean relations have faced a turning point and there’s a chance to improve the deadlocked relations. However, many obstacles remain. If the North test-fires a long-range ballistic missile or conducts a fourth nuclear test on the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party, they will basically be returning to a policy of confrontation again.
China can prevent such a catastrophe with the help of its strategic leverage, like its oil pipeline to North Korea. China knows what we want. Xi vowed to make an effort to promote peace in the region. China must keep in mind that the entire world is watching to see if Beijing keeps its promise.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 3, Page 34