Pursuing principled and proud diplomacy

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Pursuing principled and proud diplomacy

The Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s diplomacy faces a rigorous test. Foreign Minister Park Jin is to have his first meeting today with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Qingdao on the east coast of China. Our government also plans to attend a preliminary meeting for the “Chip 4” alliance soon. As the strategic alliance among Korea, the U.S., Japan and Taiwan is practically designed to check China, that could trigger conflict with China at any time. Minister Park is expected to exchange tough talk with his Chinese counterpart in today’s meeting.

Though August 24 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of South Korea-China diplomatic relations, the international situation is getting more tense and complicated than before. As China and Russia pressure their neighbors by flexing muscles, America and China are fast returning to an another Cold War of strategic competition.

After U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, China conducted military drills encircling the island. Beijing expands the exercise to the Yellow Sea. Qingdao, the venue for the two foreign ministers meeting, is where the headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet is located and where naval drills are being carried out in waters right off the coast. Very suspiciously, China chose Qingdao for the ministerial-level meeting shortly before the 30th anniversary.

China will certainly bring up issues related to Taiwan, the deployment of the Thaad missile defense system and the Chip 4 alliance. The military exercises China had conducted before Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan was blackmail, not a mere threat. As a result, civilian air flights had to detour to avoid China’s provocations. That goes against common sense and international norms.

Such high-handedness is nothing new for China. Despite the installation of the Thaad batteries only to protect our people from North Korean nuclear threats, Beijing wants Seoul to inherit the past Moon Jae-in administration’s so-called the “three No’s” — no additional Thaad deployments, no joining of a broader U.S. missile defense system and no Korea-U.S.-Japan military alliance. But they are not binding, as they are not a treaty or agreement with China. It could be better for Beijing to first help denuclearize North Korea.

Establishing a Chip 4 consultative body could be a tough challenge for South Korea. About 60 percent of the chips it produces are exported to China and Hong Kong. If we overly rely on China for exports, we could be expelled from the international supply chain. That bodes badly for the future of the alliance, too.

As South Korea can hardly deviate from the Chip 4 alliance for now, it needs to focus on setting new standards for the alliance instead of excluding certain countries. Just as President Yoon said on Monday after returning to office from vacation, maintaining national interests is important. We also hope our foreign minister takes a principled diplomatic approach based on common sense and global norms.
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