An encouraging sign

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An encouraging sign

Encouraging news just came in. Chinese banks along the border have stopped North Koreans from sending money to their local accounts, a positive sign that Beijing has now joined the international community’s consensus on resolving the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis through sanctions.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and others reportedly started their financial sanctions against the North around the time when U.S. sanctions took effect. China has been hesitant about implementing strong sanctions, even after the North’s fourth nuclear test and long-range missile launch. Earlier this month, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations refused to accept tough sanctions by underscoring the need to address the issue through negotiations, maintain peace and stability, and achieve denuclearization on the peninsula.

Moreover, China showed a very sensitive reaction to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in South Korea, even if it is aimed at our self-defense. Under such circumstances, the news from China gives us a glimmer of hope. As the North’s trade with China accounts for nearly 90 percent of its total trade, global pressure simply doesn’t work without China’s participation.

Beijing took the position that North Korea serves as a buffer against the increasing U.S. threat. But Chinese President Xi Jinping must understand that the Kim Jong-un regime has now turned into a nuisance for China. China cherishes the stability of the state, protecting its territory and sovereignty, and sustainable economic development, which call for a stable external environment, above all else. But Pyongyang’s activities disrupt the stability.

China must not let its financial sanctions slide. The financial sanctions China enacted against the North after its third nuclear test in 2013 fizzled out soon. At the same time, China needs to consider the idea of closing the border around the Chinese cities of Dandong and Hunchun. Entrepreneurs on both sides are able to avoid financial sanctions through cash transactions. If such aberrant practices continue, financial sanctions end up nowhere.

Despite the good news from China, some Chinese media also raise deep concerns. The Global Times, a tabloid under the auspices of the People’s Daily, recently supported reinforced deployment of the People’s Liberation Army to China’s northeastern region to counter Thaad deployment following an earlier warning that Seoul must pay the price. That’s a brazen threat. China must refrain from stirring up our emotions.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 23, Page 34

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