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China Has to Confront Difficulties on the Korean Peninsula

Feb 25 , 2016

A common saying in Chinese goes: Never do the same thing more than three times. It usually refers to bad deeds and indicates self-destruction of evildoers. Yet the DPRK conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and described it as a successful hydrogen bomb test. What’s more, the DPRK used ballistic missile technology to launch a satellite on the day of the Chinese New Year’s Eve. Such moves, in total disregard of China’s warnings, are neither virtuous nor righteous. In so doing, the country also repeatedly and blatantly violated UN Security Council Resolutions in defiance of world opinion. The UNSC is therefore busy deliberating ‘the toughest’ sanctions against the DPRK.

The repeated trouble-making moves by the DPRK, the rush toward combining a nuclear bomb with missiles in particular, has deeply disturbed its neighbors, evoking strong reactions from the US, Japan and the ROK, igniting tension on the Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and posing a severe challenge to the tranquility along China’s northeast border and its national security interests. In this connection, China should readjust its policies as soon as possible, work along different lines and with all relevant parties and combine tough and flexible measure as to regain the strategic initiative on questions related to the Korean Peninsula.

First, Chinese policies towards the Korean Peninsula should be based on two points. The first is to effectively safeguard its own national interests and firmly oppose nuclear weapons, war and chaos. The second is to undertake the responsibility of a major country to safeguard regional peace and stability. To this end, China needs to safeguard Peninsula peace and stability and oppose unilateral provocation or war- or trouble-making moves, Pyongyang’s clamor of nuclear war in particular. It also needs to remain committed to denuclearization and force the DPRK to honor its commitment to abandon nuclear program. In this connection, Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently pointed out that in Peninsula affairs, China insists on three points: There should not be nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula, whether in the North or the South, whether manufactured, imported or deployed there; force must not be used; and legitimate national security interests of China must be effectively maintained and protected.

Second, Chinese policies towards the DPRK should keep pace with the times and be reasonable, beneficial and strong.

The top priority is to coordinate the international community to have accurate and precise sanctions against Pyongyang, including financial restraint, non-proliferation and counter-smuggling measures. At the same time, attention should be given to avoid a major impact on the daily life of the people or social stability in the country. In this regard, Foreign Minister Wang made it clear that the UN Security Council may adopt a new resolution and take further measures for the DPRK to ‘pay the necessary price and take corresponding consequences’ and that the purpose of sanctions is to ‘effectively prevent DPRK from further advancing its nuclear and missile programs’ and take the nuclear issue back to the track of negotiation. He said that the Chinese side supports a new UNSC sanctions resolution while working for resumption of the Six-Party Talks at an early date.

From a long-term perspective, China should achieve ‘normalization’ of its relations with the DPRK as soon as possible. In other words, the China-DPRK relationship should become a normal state-to-state relationship rather than the fictitious ‘alliance’ or so-called ‘special relationship’. In this connection, ideological factors in the relationship should be further diluted and rights and obligations in the relationship should become more reciprocal and balanced. China should categorically say ‘No’ to DPRK’s capricious, irresponsible and wrong behaviors, especially those moves endangering regional peace and stability. Rather, it should take effective measures to contain those moves. On this basis, China should also urge, steer and assist the DPRK to reform, open up and pursue peaceful development, which is the right way of economic development and improvement of people’s livelihood.

Furthermore, China should urge the US to try meeting China halfway and play a constructive rather than destructive role.

Although the DPRK is admittedly inescapably responsible for the current tension on the Korean Peninsula, the Obama administration’s stubbornly hostile policies to confront, pressure and isolate the DPRK is also culpable. The so-called ‘strategic forbearance’ is in nature to shirk responsibility. This rigid and useless policy has already failed. The US should change as soon as possible its policies towards DPRK in three aspects.

The first is to change the confrontational mentality and engage the DPRK. The second is to face the problem squarely and undertake due responsibilities. The DPRK nuclear issue has been there for a long time, fueled by the North-South divide and US-DPRK antagonism. The parties opposite each other are DPRK on one side and US and ROK on the other. China is not a party directly involved in the dispute and China’s responsibility is in no way greater than that of the US. China urges and will be happy to see that the US and DPRK sit down, talk to each other and explore how each other’s reasonable concerns could be addressed. The third is to avoid fishing in troubled waters by pursuing selfish interests on the question of missile defense at the expense of China’s strategic deterrence and strategic interests. The US is now attempting to deploy in the ROK the THAAD systems, the coverage of which is far beyond what is necessary for Peninsula defense. THAAD’s X-Band Radar will cover vast areas of the Asian continent, being directly detrimental to China’s strategic security interests. Certainly on this matter China will not sit by.

Last but not the least, China should also redouble efforts to strengthen crisis management and make full preparations for war or a chaotic situation on the Korean Peninsula.

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