How China should respond to dramatic Korean Peninsula changes

Source
Global Times
Editor
Huang Panyue
Time
2018-03-09

Another explosive breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula situation. After visiting North Korea and the US in the past couple of days, South Korean presidential special envoy Chung Eui-yong announced in Washington that US President Donald Trump has accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's invitation for a meeting, and that both sides will meet before May.

The US said the time and location of the meeting have yet to be decided. Trump stressed that South Korea told him that Kim talked about denuclearization, not just a freeze. There hasn't been a meeting between a serving US president and North Korean leader. Such a breakthrough is applaudable and China should welcome it.

In the face of such dramatic changes on the Korean Peninsula, how China should react is what the Chinese want to know and would attract world attention.

Chinese people should stay calm and remain poised, and avoid the mentality that China is being marginalized.

We should always remember China's best interests on the Korean Peninsula, which is its denuclearization and peace, both of which are more important than China's relations with North and South Korea and power politics. That is because China's Northeast is next to North Korea and under constant threat by the latter's nuclear activities and unrest on the peninsula.

China is incomparable with the US. The US is far away from the Korean Peninsula and has a lot of room to maneuver. Besides, the US is an ally of South Korea and maintains its ability to influence it.

China's huge influence on North Korea has ceased. China does not station troops in North Korea after it pulled negotiation representatives from Panmunjeom in the mid-1990s. China and North Korea only have normal relations, apart from the ideological connection, and their economic cooperation is mutually beneficial. It is a misconception that China still provides huge amounts of economic aid to North Korea.

China's influence on North Korea is based on China's increasing national strength and geopolitical closeness. China is capable of impacting international sanctions, and remains a stakeholder in the Korean Peninsula situation. However, China cannot lead the efforts to solve peninsula problem.

However, the trend of the peninsula situation is in the direction that China has been pushing and shows China's efforts worked. The "double suspension" that China has advocated appeared, and the "dual-track" approach is taking shape. In the recent past, China has been part of international sanctions against North Korea, while preventing the blocking of North Korea and other extreme situations that may cause military conflicts, and retained room for a favorable turn between the US and North Korea.

As a major power, it is unnecessary for China to worry about North Korea "turning to the US," as there will be no one around China that will completely side with the US. Since the very beginning of the peninsula nuclear crisis, China has been actively pushing for a direct dialogue between North Korea and the US, and we should continue to support this approach at this moment. If the Kim-Trump meeting will contribute to denuclearization and peace that China desires the most, China has no reason to be unhappy about it.

The current low in China-North Korea relations is due to the North's nuclear tests, not the so-called historic or cultural factors or the North Korean leader's personality, which have been hyped by some people. China-North Korea ties will improve when the nuclear issue is settled.

With the development of modern technology and the shift of international relations, North Korea's significance as China's geopolitical buffer has been greatly reduced. Sound China-North Korea ties are more important to North Korea than to China. China should support the US-North Korea contact and welcome the Kim-Trump meeting. In the meantime, China should actively respond to the sharp change in the situation and improve relations with North Korea to further improve the direction.

We should respect North Korea. China will, on one hand, uphold the authority of the UN Security Council, while on the other hand, help protect the rights of North Korea when Pyongyang begins denuclearization talks with Washington. China will advocate the international security mechanism and help prevent North Korea from being deceived or squeezed by the US once it begins to denuclearize.

This is just the beginning of peninsula peace, and a great deal of uncertainty lies ahead. China should stay calm and uphold its principles, and remain focused despite the dramatic changes. China must not pursue a quick solution or become hesitant.

China will welcome the dialogue between the US and North Korea, and resolutely support North Korea securing its due interests in the process of denuclearization. Through these efforts, China's interests will not be pushed aside.

 

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