Dog-eat-dog politicsThe establishment in 1992 of diplomatic relations between South Korea and China was an offshoot of both sides’ need to ensure their national interests. At the time, South Korean President Roh Tae-woo wanted to build a peaceful structure on the Korean Peninsula by improving ties with former Communist nations, while Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping desired to normalize relations with South Korea in his revisionist path to open up China and economically reform it. He said there was nothing to lose from having diplomatic ties.
Such friendly ties of 24 years are suddenly teetering on the edge. At a meeting with Kim Chong-in, head of an emergency committee of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Qiu Guohong warned that China’s efforts to promote Seoul-Beijing relations could come to an end if Seoul decides to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system.
Ambassadors must represent their own countries’ position. But Qiu went too far. His bombshell remarks are nothing but interference in our domestic affairs. We harbor strong doubts about China’s sincerity about our ties. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs must explain what message Qiu tried to convey through his shocking remarks.
There is another issue: Did our government have to hurriedly announce that it would kick off negotiations with Uncle Sam about deploying the Thaad system less than six hours after North Korea test-fired a long-range missile? Thaad deployment is not an issue for China to begin with as it is aimed at our self-defense as a sovereign state. Yet, our government could have displayed some delicacy with the timing, considering the need for China’s cooperation in dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea. Our government made a mistake by announcing the deployment as a fait accompli even before the United States persuades China.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have taken a step back. After meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington, he said America would not push the deployment in an impatient way. A scheduled Seoul-Washington working group consultation for the deployment has been delayed following a U.S. request - a meaningful development on the issue after both sides made progress on new sanctions against Pyongyang.
Our government must watch closely to see if Washington-Beijing cooperation gains the upper hand over Seoul-Washington cooperation. It must find effective ways to secure our national interests in the dog-eat-dog world of international politics.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 25, Page 30