Is China-North Korea friendship treaty outdated?

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/3 22:48:39

With tensions around the Korean Peninsula escalating, how the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty functions and what Beijing's attitude is toward it have triggered heated discussions both within and outside China.

The treaty was signed by the two governments in 1961 and renewed in 1981 and 2001. The most recent renewal will remain in effect until 2021. Article 2 of the treaty says: "The two parties undertake jointly to adopt all measures to prevent aggression against either party by any state." It also provides that "in the event of one of the parties being subjected to armed attack by any state or several states together and thus being involved in a state of war, the other party shall immediately render military and other assistance by all means at its disposal."

The treaty has played an indispensable role in ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula over the years. South Korea had expected to dominate the process of unifying the peninsula. The US and South Korea had made several plans to launch military attacks on North Korea. The treaty has served as a buffer to prompt Seoul and Washington to cool down.

Since the treaty was renewed last time, the divergences between China and North Korea over the latter's nuclear development have sharpened. There have been debates over whether the treaty is outdated in the Chinese and international opinion sphere.

But upon the 55th anniversary of the signing of the treaty in 2016, Chinese and North Korean leaders exchanged messages, which caught world attention.

On Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang responded to questions concerning the treaty, saying the treaty aims to "promote friendly cooperation between the two countries in various fields and safeguard regional peace and security."

The precondition of peace is a stable geopolitical structure. In recent years, South Korea, Japan and the US have re-engaged in the geopolitical game in Northeast Asia. The treaty has somewhat supported structural stability in Northeast Asia. South Korea and the US have repeatedly hyped up the prospect of the collapse of Pyongyang's regime. Some have tried to exclude China's interests from the future landscape of the peninsula, while the treaty indicates that such thinking only leads to a dead end.

Pyongyang should cherish the treaty and make it one of the foundations for its national security. North Korea's pursuit of nuclear technology has impaired its own security as well as the region's, and it has also jeopardized China's national security. This has violated the principles of the treaty.

The treaty firmly opposes aggression. But North Korea insists on developing nuclear weapons and conducting missile launches in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, which increases the risks of military clashes with the US. The situation has changed a lot compared with that of 2001 when the treaty was renewed.

North Korea needs to end its nuclear tests. South Korea and the US should stop their aggressive military threats against Pyongyang. Both sides should contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula. China is geographically adjacent to the peninsula. If there is war, China will face the risk as well.

China will not allow its northeastern region to be contaminated by North Korea's nuclear activities. Nor will it allow changes to the peninsula structure through non-peaceful means.

China has not imposed full-scale sanctions on any country and the Chinese people have stayed away from war for years. The world has seen China's strength gaining momentum. China respects all countries, but no country should underestimate China's determination.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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