Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
The Chinese commerce ministry and General Administration of Customs announced Saturday that China would suspend coal import from North Korea on Sunday until the end of this year to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 2321.
It is not the first time that China has banned coal import from North Korea. In December 2016, China also halted the import of coal from North Korea until the end of that year to implement UN resolutions.
But, there is a slight difference in the length of the ban - from February 19 to December 31, 2017 - more than 10 months. The word "suspend" in the announcement indicates that there is still room for maneuver in relations between China and North Korea. What is going to be affected by the ban is not only Pyongyang, but Chinese enterprises engaged in the trading.
A commentary said this is China's direct response after North Korea fired a missile on February 12 in violation of UN resolutions. Moreover, many foreign media speculated that the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Malaysia on February 13 was one of the reasons for China's increasing pressure on North Korea.
In addition, some analysts believe that there is no need to give too much praise for China's move, for the will that China has demonstrated and the actions it has taken to sanction North Korea are far from enough.
Despite the comments, China is strengthening its enforcement of the Resolutions 2270 and 2321. While pressing North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, the Chinese government has managed to maintain the survival of North Korea and never stopped diplomatic mediation.
"There are still opportunities for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the 53rd Munich Security Conference on Friday. "We should work to bring the parties back to the table."
Since North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Six-Party Talks in April 2009, negative comments on the multilateral mechanism have been on the rise.
Why did Wang bring up the mechanism right now?
The settlement of the North Korea nuclear issue cannot be delayed. The deadlock should be broken as soon as possible, for which there are only two options: negotiation or war. The price of war casualties and the subsequent chain effects would be more difficult to bear than the compromises made at the negotiation table. In this sense, the significance of resuming the Six-Party Talks lies in a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue.
In terms of the North Korea nuclear issue, we cannot go back to before the Joint Statement was made on September 19, 2005. After Pyongyang's five nuclear tests from 2006 to 2016, the threshold for each party to go back to the Six-Party Talks has been raised significantly.
As Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, told the Singapore-based Lianhe Zaobao, China's repetitive appeals for resumption of the Six-Party Talks have not succeeded because the conditions that the US and North Korea have set for the talks directly oppose each other.
If the US and South Korea continue to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, it would be increasingly likely that the nuclear issue would be solved by force. It would be impossible for Pyongyang to give in to such pressure. If North Korea insists on developing economy and nuclear armed forces simultaneously, the pressure on the country would never disappear. Its progress in nuclear weapons over 20 years doesn't make it safer.
China's call to restart the Six-Party Talks reflects the damage to its own security and its intention to safeguard the peace and security of Northeast Asia. This also shows China taking responsibility for itself, the world and the future of humanity.
Relevant parties need to reach a consensus in order to restart the talks. They need to engage in more communication and respect and understand each other. Most importantly, they need to have the sincerity and patience to cooperate on the issue. Unfortunately, the circumstance and conditions are not right for resuming the Six-Party Talks at the moment.
No one can predict how long it will take to resume the Six-Party Talks. However, history has proved that the road of confrontation leads to a dead end. Although the road of the talks is long and bumpy, it is inevitable.
The foundation of the Six-Party Talks is based on long-term concerns for the peace and security of Northeast Asia. Given the Cold War establishment that remains in the area, the Six-Party Talks is not only significant for solving the North Korea nuclear issue, but is even likely to replace the US-South Korea and US-Japan alliances, and become the real guarantee of regional security in the future.
The author is the director of the Department of International Political Science at the College of Political Science and Public Management of Yanbian University. email@example.com Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion