Flexibility is key

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Flexibility is key

We welcome the agreement between the United States and China on Wednesday over a tougher United Nations Security Council resolution. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reached consensus in a meeting in Washington with U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice following his earlier meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. Although details of the agreement were not disclosed, both sides reportedly added more than 30 organizations and key figures involved in the development of nuclear weapons and missiles - including the North’s Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry - to the sanctioned list.

What attracts our attention most is China’s decision to stop providing fuel for fighter jets to the North and ban imports of North Korean coal and iron ore - unprecedentedly powerful penalties. Washington and Beijing also agreed to prohibit suspicious North Korean vessels from entering harbors. Such potent actions will surely dispel worries that sanctions will eventually fizzle out.

Our government’s strong reactions - like deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system and shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex - must have played a part in producing tougher sanctions. But we must watch closely to see if Washington made a deal with Beijing on the deployment. The United States and South Korea have taken the position that the deployment of Thaad and sanctions are separate issues. But we can hardly defend that position if the two issues are actually linked.

There have been signs that Washington and Beijing are negotiating some kind of under-the-table agreement. Kerry said Washington is not “impatient” about Thaad deployment, suggesting the United States is offering flexibility on the issue to satisfy China. Diplomatic analysts attribute the sudden postponement of a South Korea-U.S. working group to discuss the missile shield to China’s concession on sanctions.

It would be better if Uncle Sam dealt with the Thaad deployment issue with China. As Thaad batteries are supposed to come to South Korea first to protect U.S. forces here, it is natural for the U.S. to persuade China about the missile defense system.

We need to look back on the controversial deployment of missile defenses in Eastern Europe. Russia vehemently opposed it, but it was the U.S. - not Poland or the Czech Republic - who persuaded Russia. Our government needs to be flexible on the deployment. It would be stupid to play with fire if the direction of the winds has changed.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30

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