Is China being marginalized on Korean Peninsula?

Global Times
Huang Panyue

After a roller coaster series of adjustments to the Korean Peninsula situation, all sides have begun afresh moving toward a June 12 summit. Looking back over this period, a strange analysis of China's role in resolving the crisis has left a deep impression upon people. It is time to put an end to those judgments.

The claim that China is being marginalized emerged in South Korea and the West after Pyongyang and Seoul started to ease relations at the beginning of this year. At that time, the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was confirmed.

Yet when Kim visited China in March, those who had promoted that very opinion were awakened to Beijing's massive influence on the peninsula. This impression peaked when Kim visited China again in May.

The cognition was mixed with some foreign forces' wish to subdue North Korea. After a recent round of tough rhetoric from Pyongyang about the Trump-Kim summit, the idea became widely publicized among Western and South Korean media that Beijing had probably urged North Korea to change its attitude.

When Trump announced his cancellation of the meeting, Pyongyang became very restrained, expressing its hopes to hold the summit. At this time, the US and South Korean media barely mentioned China.

What's particularly ridiculous is that arguments about limiting China's influence on the peninsula are once again on the rise.

For instance, some say they don't want China, one of the signatories of the Korean Armistice Agreement, to participate in the signing of the joint declaration to end the state of war.

Those who promulgated such arguments were obviously not yearning for a permanent peace on the peninsula in the first place, but instead have been carefully calculating their own geopolitical gains and losses. Eyeing every single change on the peninsula since the beginning of this year, they hope China will play a walk-on part.

But China is a crucial driving force of the progress on the peninsula. On the one hand, China's strength and geopolitical position is obvious to all. On the other, North Korea is a fully independent country. China does not have a decisive influence on the affairs of the peninsula, yet without China, major decisions in the region can hardly take shape or be implemented in a stable way.

Some people in the US and South Korea tend to blame China when North Korea plays tough, but hope China will step back whenever they have smooth communication with Pyongyang.

China's stance on the issue has never changed. Beijing has spared no effort in establishing a functional framework to resolve the crisis under UN auspices, as well as encouraging North Korea and the US to meet each other halfway. Without Beijing's efforts, the situation on the peninsula would likely have become unmanageable last year and interactions between Pyongyang and Washington would have been more fragile than they are now.

The US and South Korea should neither underestimate China nor irresponsibly shift their responsibilities to China.

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