Seoul, Beijing on different pages

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Seoul, Beijing on different pages


As President Park Geun-hye returned from the military parade at Tiananmen in China in September, she said, “Chinese President Xi J Jinping supported peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, and various discussions for peaceful reunification will begin between Seoul and Beijing.” But China clarified that it was referring to an independent peaceful reunification, not reunification by absorption.

Secondly, before the Korea-U.S. summit in Washington, in October, China hoped President Park would persuade U.S. President Barack Obama to hold U.S.-North Korea talks. But the two leaders adopted a joint statement denouncing North Korea, and Beijing was in an awkward position.

Thirdly, this year, before the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2270, Chinese foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that China would support sanctions if the United States pursued a peace agreement with North Korea. Secretary Kerry agreed.

Seoul was disappointed as the U.N. Security Council resolution was used as a means for U.S.-North Korean talks.

In the past year, Korea and China have three times been on different pages. Before the announcement of the Thaad deployment, a Chinese scholar attending a closed seminar on North Korean weapons at Nankai University said that Korea and China had different dreams. Chinese scholars had extensive and in-depth contacts with North Korea, national interests aside, and their views were closer to what North Korea was really like.

One scholar explained the nuclear and missiles provocations earlier this year. “This year, the U.S. presidential election will be held in November. North Korea has made a strategic judgment that it would be safe from America’s military power regardless of the trouble they make. According to the two-step nuclear possession strategy, Pyongyang self-proclaimed to be a nuclear power of the East and unfolded diplomatic efforts to make the international community get used to the nuclear North Korea. It is expected next year that Pyongyang’s diplomacy would focus on negotiation for a North Korea-U.S. tie.”

Chinese scholars were distrustful of the United States. One professor said, “The United States used North Korea, a rogue nation, to unprecedentedly strengthen the Korea-U.S. and U.S.-Japan alliances. Washington is creating the North Korean nuclear problem to a degree along with North Korea.”

The North Korean nuclear program is also a security issue for China. “The collapse of North Korea is expected to result in about 3 million refugees, and at least 2 million would come to China. They cannot be compared to the refugees in Europe. Why would we oppose if things would be better off after North Korea’s collapse than before? North Korea’s nuclear program is not a matter of international relations but a security concern.” In the vote between peaceful stability and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, 22 chose stability while 20 prioritized denuclearization.

North Korea has used the conflict in U.S.-China and Korea-China relations for more than 20 years to practically lay hands on its nuclear program. In addition to the Thaad deployment, the United States under Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump’s leadership would be added to the North Korean nuclear equation. We cannot bring peace in Northeast Asia with different internal motives. We need solutions by agreeing to disagree and running a three-legged race.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 30, Page 26

*The author is a Beijing correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.


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