Taking the lead

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Taking the lead

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting Wednesday with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, reminds us of the difficulties inherent in resolving the North Korean nuclear dilemma. Though both sides discussed additional sanctions on the rogue nation after its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, the Beijing rendezvous only affirmed their fundamental disagreements on how to proceed.

The meeting was focused on determining an appropriate level of sanctions against the North. Secretary Kerry defined Pyongyang’s relentless push for nuclear development as a “grave threat to world peace” and called on Beijing to come up with strong measures to help curb the North’s nuclear ambitions. The secretary reportedly called for suspension of Chinese oil exports, a ban on North Korean civilian aircraft flying over Chinese territory and prohibition of the import of North Korean minerals.

Despite a straightforward talk with Kerry over the nuclear dilemma, Wang showed considerable disagreement over the issue. He confirmed that there is no change in China’s fundamental position that the Korean Peninsula must remain denuclearized; the Gordian knot should be untied or severed only through dialogue; and the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula should be maintained.

Wang’s remarks underscore the hard-to-narrow distance on the issue, as we have seen in times of past crises triggered by the North’s nuclear tests, ever since its first one in 2006. China sees the nuclear issue from the broader perspective of the U.S. pivot to Asia, rising tensions in the South China Sea, and the deepening security cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo. That helps explain why Beijing continues to embrace Pyongyang despite its incessant provocations.

China agreed to a need for a stronger UN resolution to curb the rogue regime. Chinese President Xi Jinping harbors stronger feelings than any of his predecessors when it comes to China’s role as a major country. Though China will not impose the sanctions Uncle Sam wants, Wang basically shares our position that the international community must levy sanctions on Pyongyang for its actions.

We must first devise and present creative countermeasures acceptable to the international community, including the United States and China, after taking their common recognition of the situation as leverage. The risk is too grave for us to hold China accountable for the deepening crisis. Our diplomacy, too, calls for creative ideas, just as our economy does.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 28, Page 30

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