China not behind peninsula denuclearization setback

By Li Jiacheng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/3 19:08:39

China not behind peninsula stalemate

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US-North Korea relations have recently been volatile and stare at gloomy prospects. After the June Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, the expected denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has stalled, and Pyongyang has suspended its efforts to dismantle the Sohae Satellite Launching Station. North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un agreed to repatriate the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War (1950-53) during the landmark Singapore summit, and to dismantle the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which had led to a remarkable boost in Washington-Pyongyang relations. But ties slumped after the abrupt cancellation of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Pyongyang trip. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently hinted at the resumption of US-South Korea joint military exercises.

US President Donald Trump posted a White House statement on his personal Twitter account on August 29 for the first time in the third person. This time he started his tweet with an accusation against China, instead of mentioning it at the end as he usually does. Trump shifted all the blame to China for the stagnation of the denuclearization process and deterioration of US-North Korea relations.

Trump bluntly said that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of the major trade dispute between Beijing and Washington. He claimed that the aid China provides North Korea is not helpful. Obviously Trump believes that the deterioration of US-North Korea relations is a result of China exerting pressure on North Korea with the worsening Sino-US trade disputes. Blaming China for the setback in denuclearization has become a convenient excuse for Trump.

Responding to the accusation, China's foreign ministry spokesperson  Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing on August 30 that the US should honor its words and play a positive, constructive and responsible role in promoting the political settlement of the peninsula issue, just like China does. In face of the setbacks and difficulties at this point, it should find out and reflect upon its own problems, rather than flip-flop and shift blames on others.

Trump has an absurd logic in making China a scapegoat. With Kim's recent three visits to China, Trump is aware of the robustness of China-North Korea relations and Beijing's strong influence on Pyongyang, and hence assumes that China's influence is the reason for the delay in denuclearization on the peninsula. However, he overlooks that Washington might be the one to blame.

It has been 65 years since the Korean War. The joint statement issued during the Trump-Kim summit declared to the world that the two nations would rebuild new bilateral relations, which led to North Korea's expectation of a war-ending declaration. Trump promised to sign the declaration soon at the Singapore summit, but later the US government pulled it back and took it as an important bargaining chip to constrain North Korea. This has dampened US-North Korea ties. 

Nevertheless, the US not only ignored North Korea's efforts to denuclearize, including suspending nuclear test, blowing up the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and partially dismantling the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, but also canceled Pompeo's fourth visit to North Korea and temporarily ended bilateral talks.

In addition, the US also ignores China's arduous diplomatic efforts to improve the situation on the peninsula. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has fully abided by the resolutions on sanctioning North Korea, which once led to cold ties and plummeting bilateral trade. However, it is chilling that the US imposed trade tariffs on China, instead of sympathizing with the price China has paid for implementing the sanctions and thanking Beijing for efforts to promote US-North Korea reconciliation.

There is no doubt that the denuclearization negotiations between the US and North Korea will be a challenging long-term endeavor. The US is supposed to take on the responsibility, compensate North Korea for its denuclearization efforts, sign the war-ending declaration as soon as possible, and inject momentum into the denuclearization process, rather than irresponsibly shift all the blame on China.

The author is a research fellow at the research center for economies and politics of transitional countries, Liaoning University.

Newspaper headline: China not behind peninsula stalemate

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