Peninsula issue requires a package solution

By Chen Ping Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/25 17:48:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



After a number of much-talked-about events in Northeast Asia over the past few months, including China-North Korea and Inter-Korean summits, the diplomatic flux in the region has intensified. The international community heaved a sigh of relief on June 12 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump finally shook hands in Singapore - the most important event of the times looked up to by the world.

Although the agreement signed by the two leaders after the summit did not contain anything unexpected, it is still a major step forward. After all, taut nerves on the Korean Peninsula have now eased. We expect this momentum to continue in Northeast Asia for long-lasting peace, stability and prosperity of the region.

What to do next? I believe the Korean Peninsula issue needs a package solution, which should have at least four elements: mutual trust between the US and North Korea, North Korea's integration into the international community, removal of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile interception system, and regional security of Northeast Asia.

First, build US-North Korea mutual trust. The US and North Korea have been hostile to each other for almost 70 years. The hatred and conflict between the two sides can hardly be resolved just by a couple of summits.

The US and North Korea must respect each other, be inclusive and treat each other on an equal footing. The model of peacefully resolving the Korean Peninsula issues through negotiations that China has been advocating should be maintained. This is the only way to implement the agreement signed by Trump and Kim and to ensure substantial progress in future negotiations. Given the current volatile US government policy, its allies South Korea and Japan can play a unique role in this regard.

Second, help North Korea integrate into the international community as soon as possible. First of all, the outside world shouldn't demonize North Korea and its leaders. The international community, especially Western nations, should understand North Korea and its leaders. North Korea was established in 1948 and joined the UN with the Republic of Korea in 1991. Kim Jong-un is the legitimate leader of North Korea. He is accepted and supported by the North Korean people. His rule is a political necessity.

Then, the normalization of North Korean relations with the US and Japan should be achieved as soon as possible. Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger proposed the concept of "cross recognition" in the early 1970s, which said that while China and the Soviet Union normalize ties with South Korea, the US and Japan should restore relations with North Korea.

Due to historical reasons, this "cross recognition" has not been fully realized. China established diplomatic ties with South Korea 26 years ago. Russia did it even earlier. However, the US and Japan have not yet established relations with North Korea. This should change.

The establishment of diplomatic ties between North Korea and the US can eliminate the remnants of the cold war in Northeast Asia, enhance Pyongyang's sense of security, and facilitate the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

In addition, when North Korea meets certain conditions, it is necessary for the UN to consider relaxing or even lifting economic sanctions. This will help stabilize the country's internal affairs and increase its confidence in opening up. It is necessary to encourage North Korea to break through the theoretical shackles of opening up that have been shaped from the "Juche Idea" for many years and help it establish a foreign trade system based on rules and regulations.

Third, the THAAD issue should be resolved. Although the US and North Korea did not clarify, the four points in the agreement reached by Trump and Kim in Singapore were precisely the proposals put forward by China. It shows that China's role in the Korean Peninsula issue is unique and widely recognized. Beijing's contribution to the settlement of the Peninsula issue over the past two decades should be respected. All parties should urge North Korea and the US to follow the "road map" of the Peninsula proposed by China.

On the transition from the armistice agreement to a peace treaty, it is necessary to point out that the South Korea was not a signatory to the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement. So in what capacity should Seoul be involved in promoting the transition? This requires serious consideration by all parties, especially South Korea. Under the current circumstances, China, North Korea, and the US, and South Korea's "quadrilateral model" or "3+1 model" may be the best option.

China is a direct victim of the US deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea. Because of THAAD, Sino-South Korean relations have been damaged, leading to a major setback in bilateral trade, though Seoul claims the deployment is to prevent the security threat posed by the North Korean nuclear program.

Today, Peninsula tensions have eased. Kim has also declared that North Korea and South Korea will not fight again. Then, the removal of the THAAD system has become a touchstone to verify whether its deployment was a tactical arrangement to guard against North Korean nuclear threat or a strategic step to counter or even contain China and other countries.

Proper resolution of the THAAD issue will help improve China-South Korea relations and encourage the two to join hands to aid North Korea develop its economy and improve the livelihood of its people.

Fourth, the key to regional security in Northeast Asia is to maintain peace and stability among countries in the region. However, the region lacks an effective security mechanism. Although the Six-Party Talks that China has been leading and advancing have not directly reached the intended purpose of having North Korea abandon its nuclear program, it has not completely lost its meaning.

A regional security mechanism based on the Six-Party Talks should be established so that all stakeholders can conduct meetings, exchange ideas, and talk on issues related to regional peace, stability, and development, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the withdrawal of US troops in South Korea, unification of the peninsula, and the kidnapping issue that Tokyo is concerned about.

The author is deputy editor of the Global Times. This is an abstract of a speech he delivered at a seminar entitled "Implications of US-North Korea Summit and Peace in Northeast Asia - Perspectives from CJK Journalists." The seminar was hosted by Seoul-based Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat and the Korea Press Foundation on June 22, 2018 in Seoul, Republic of Korea. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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