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Sincere dialogue still best way to resolve Peninsula issue

By Wang Junsheng | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-21 08:03

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Park Jin, the new foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, via video link in Beijng, May 16, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

The situation on the Korean Peninsula could deteriorate because the new Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol's policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is similar to that of US President Joe Biden-both believe in putting maximum pressure on the DPRK, instead of using dialogue or engagement, to resolve the peninsula nuclear issue.

What could make matters worse is that the DPRK has test-fired 16 missiles recently.

Worryingly, Sino-ROK relations will likely encounter some challenges, if the Yoon administration strengthens its alliance with the United States, as its remarks and moves suggest.

The ROK should think twice before participating in the US' multilateral strategic mechanisms, such as the Quad security dialogue between the US, India, Japan and Australia, and the "Five Eyes" cooperation mechanism of the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which China sees as tools of major power competition.

Although the Russia-Ukraine conflict has brought the Moscow-Washington tug of war to the fore, the US still sees China as its biggest strategic rival. After the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, some Chinese scholars argued that it would help shift the US' focus from China. But the Biden administration's foreign policy indicates the US' strategic pressure on China has not eased much.

This unfortunately suggests that the US will be reluctant to cooperate with China to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue. This could intensify the tensions on the peninsula, prompting the DPRK to conduct more nuclear tests this year.

The tragedy is that some major powers are not showing the political will to resolve the peninsula issue through cooperation, and instead intend to use it as a bargaining chip to fulfill their respective interests.

China has been working to help stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula, especially to deepen its friendly relations with its neighbors, because that is important for its diplomacy.

If the tensions in North and Northeast Asia intensify, it will give the US more excuses to consolidate its presence in the region by deploying more strategic weapons in the ROK, which is the last thing China wants to see.

China also hopes to improve relations with the ROK at this critical moment, not least because this year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ROK diplomatic relations.

Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan attended Yoon's inauguration ceremony recently, becoming the highest-ranking Chinese official to not only attend the swearing in of an ROK president, but also to visit a foreign country since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. This should leave no doubt that Beijing wants to strengthen relations with Seoul.

China has always treated the ROK as a very important partner in terms of not only economic cooperation but also on regional and global issues.

The related parties all want the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but they should take actions rather than just pay lip service to the issue. For if the peninsula is not effectively denuclearized, it could trigger an arms race in Northeast Asia.

So the US should abandon its strategic competition with China and, instead, cooperate with the related parties on issues of common interests.

As for the ROK, it should strike the right balance between its relations with the US and China, instead of blindly following the US' policies.

The author is the director of, and a professor at, the Department of China's Regional Strategy, National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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