No consensusPresident Moon Jae-in held a summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday. The meeting was anticipated to bring about one voice calling Pyongyang to refrain from further provocations and return to denuclearization dialogue. But it fell far short of our expectations.
Xi agreed with Moon on issues related to the Korean Peninsula and said that Seoul and Beijing have come under a greater understanding during Moon’s presidency. But the rhetoric stopped there. The two repeated the need for dialogue instead of issuing a warning against North Korean provocations. The joint statement did not even mention “concerns” over the latest slew of belligerent activities from North Korea. Xi called for dialogue and negotiation, while Moon stressed the importance of upholding the “dialogue momentum.” China did not make any reference to denuclearization. Instead, Chinese officials said that Beijing and Moscow have jointly proposed the easing of sanctions during a recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
Another focus was a breakthrough in the ties that have yet to recover in the aftermath of the installation of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system in South Korea in 2016. Beijing has not fully removed its ban on group tours to South Korea or sanctions on Korean TV programs and entertainers. Moon referred to South Korea and China as one community bound by destiny, but he has not specifically asked for a lift in the ban.
Xi was blunt and demanded “reasonable” solution to the Thaad issue. By “reasonable solution,” Beijing must mean a complete removal of the Thaad system. He did not respond to Moon’s invitation to Seoul. After summit talks between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June, Beijing announced that Xi has in principle accepted Abe’s invitation to Tokyo. The ties between Seoul and Beijing remained aloof.
Moon only added to the controversy by saying Hong Kong and other territorial issues were domestic affairs of China, making public Seoul’s backing of Beijing under international criticism over its crackdown on Hong Kong. What should be said was unsaid, and instead, what should not be said was said in the summit.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 24, Page 30