Communication is keyChinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s remarks were straightforward. In a meeting on Sunday with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se in Laos, he spoke barbed words to express his opposition to Seoul’s decision to allow the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in South Korea. He emphatically said it was regrettable that South Korea’s choice damaged the foundation of mutual trust between the nations. “I want to listen to what kind of substantial actions South Korea would take to protect both countries’ relations,” he warned.
Wang tends to speak a few words at a time to give his interpreter enough time to deliver his message clearly. But his denunciation of Seoul’s decision continued for more than one minute. Wang’s reaction shows how outraged he was at Seoul. Reacting to Wang’s outrage, Yun borrowed a Chinese idiom — “You have to remove the roots if you want to pluck grass” — to point out that the fundamental reason for the Thaad deployment is the North Korean nuclear threat.
South Korea and China have repeated their previous positions. But we must attach significance to the fact that both sides had the first foreign ministerial-level meeting since the government’s decision to deploy Thaad in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang. In the past, whenever disputes arose between the two, China showed its discontent by avoiding contact with South Korea. That caused bigger misunderstandings, which again worsened the situation.
This time, however, both nations’ foreign ministers had a face-to-face meeting after the friction over the Thaad deployment. One more noticeable development took place. Wang said, “We should maintain communications because we are friends.” His remarks suggest that the best way to resolve disagreement is having dialogue.
Conflicts and shared interest coexist in the Seoul-Beijing relations. As shared interests play a bigger part, both sides must tend to any wounds promptly and sincerely. In particular, they must make efforts not to allow the Thaad issue harm mutually beneficial relations.
It is surprising that Tsingdao City in Shandong Provice cancelled its plan to participate in a beer-and-chicken festival to be held in Daegu, its sister city in North Gyeongsang. It is unclear if the decision was made by the Chinese government. Such goodhearted civilian exchanges should not be affected by the conflict over Thaad. Seoul and Beijing must work hard toward a better future as friends.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 26, Page 30