Wang’s visit key to reviving NK peace process

By Zhang Yun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/4 23:26:12

Photo: IC

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's three-day visit to North Korea has an important role to play in reviving the Korean Peninsula's diplomatic process and promoting diplomacy with North Korea.

First, it is important to advance the diplomatic process within US President Donald Trump's term of office, while China's constructive role weighs a lot in reviving US-North Korea diplomacy. President Trump's remaining term is less than one year and a half, and Washington is preparing for the 2020 presidential election. Thus, it is important to fix a general direction of the Korean Peninsula issue's political solution within Trump's tenure. 

Although North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Trump met at Panmunjom by the end of June, diplomacy on the Peninsula had become somewhat staid. History has told us that the change in US internal politics, especially the presidential transition, could have a huge impact on the US policy on the Korean Peninsula. Trump is the first sitting US president to meet a North Korean head of state after WWII. In other words, Trump is more likely to break the stalemate on the peninsula. If Trump is re-elected, current talks may continue. If the general direction of peace talks is fixed, it may also be a binding force for the next US administration even if Trump is not re-elected. 

But all of this depends on whether the peninsula's diplomatic process can be revived as soon as possible, and China plays a key role. From the situation in the past two years, US-North Korea exchanges synchronized with China-North Korea exchanges. For example, after Kim visited China in January, the US and North Korea held the Hanoi summit in February; after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited North Korea in June, Kim and Trump met in Panmunjom.

Second, China and North Korea have strengthened strategic exchanges, which will help North Korea further focus on economic development and lay the foundation for Northeast Asia's long-term stability. The final solution to the Korean Peninsula issue is closely connected with North Korea's economic development and transformation. However, as Pyongyang builds its economy, it is still facing external security pressure. If North Korea feels more insecure, it may start to waver. China-North Korea strategic exchanges are very important for North Korea to firmly reform its economy and integrate into the world.

During President Xi's visit to North Korea in June, he spoke highly of North Korea's efforts to safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula and promote denuclearization. Xi also stressed that China is willing to provide assistance within its capacity for North Korea to address its legitimate security and development concerns. 

Kim said Xi's visit showed the unbreakable traditional friendship between the two countries. He noted that North Korea was implementing new strategies and it would like to learn from China's experience and dedicate to developing economy and improving people's livelihood. Kim's remarks reflected that China-North Korea strategic, high-level interactions are great encouragement for Pyongyang to carry out its new strategic route. 

Take the Middle East as an example. The reason why diplomatic process encountered twists and turns in the region is that there lacks consistent political and diplomatic efforts of a regional big power like what China does in East Asia.

Third, reviving North Korea-US talks as soon as possible is conducive to signaling the willingness of China and the US to cooperate on heated international issues. In the meantime, it could help mitigate the concerns about China-US all-round confrontation triggered by the US-launched trade war against China. 

China-US tensions escalated on Sunday as US started to impose fresh tariffs of 15 percent on $125 billion of Chinese imports and China retaliated by imposing tariffs of five to 10 percent on more US products. The world is concerned about the global order amid such a trade war. However, there is plenty of room for the two countries to cooperate on various international issues, including the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. 

Trump has put more attention than any of his predecessors on the Korean Peninsula issue, and his meetings with Kim are unprecedented, which determines Trump doesn't want to see an end with nothing achieved. 

However, quite a lot is needed to change the more than five decades of hostility between North Korea and the US. China-US cooperation is indispensable to creating such conditions. Reviving Pyongyang-Washington negotiations with the help of Beijing will guide international opinion and strengthen world confidence in solving major regional issues through multilateralism and international cooperation.

The author is associate professor of National Niigata University Japan and senior fellow at the Institute of Advanced Area Studies and Global Governance, Beijing Foreign Studies University.


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