Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul must control risk

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/24 23:53:40

The China-Japan-South Korea foreign ministers meeting started on Wednesday, and China also had bilateral meetings with Japan and South Korea. The three-party dialogue is also influenced by two other countries - the US and North Korea.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine on the same day, which has diverted people's attention from the meeting. The vociferous North Korea proved its presence and influence once again.

Foreign ministers from the three countries all expressed their emphasis on the upcoming G20 summit, and agreed to create conditions for a potential trilateral summit meeting within this year. However, rifts between China and the other two countries - the disputes over the Diaoyu Islands, the South China Sea and the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system - are still upsetting the prospect of improvement. This is probably why no joint document was released after the meeting.

Although encumbered by diplomatic tensions, the three countries are still robust in their economic and people-to-people relations. But the deteriorating political discord is stealing the thunder of economic and civilian amity, because the root cause for the contradiction and the toolkit required to resolve it are beyond the current problem-solving mechanisms of the three countries.

If the outside powers are not cooperative in the current circumstances, no breakthroughs can happen.

Although the most underdeveloped country in Northeast Asia, North Korea is unwavering in showing its resentment of being militarily pressured by the US and South Korea. Pyongyang hopes by playing hardball, it can force the outside to make concessions.

The US, another major influencer, uses its power in a low-profile way, but makes a real dent in regional geopolitics. Washington gives impetus to Japan's rightist tilt, which is a major barrier to the Sino-Japanese relationship. Now, Tokyo is a qualified wingman for Washington's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and has almost become an all-out rival against China in foreign affairs. South Korea is finally convinced to deploy THAAD, which is a game changer in the vulnerable security landscape. These two countries' challenge against China displays the big picture of the Sino-US game.

The prospect of trilateral cooperation between China, Japan and South Korea is overshadowed by the US that is still obsessed with the obsolete Cold War mindset.

China, Japan and South Korea must avoid unscrupulous self-centeredness and exercise restraint over disputes. If they cannot look at the big picture and are swept along by the US, the escalating rifts will eventually ruin the entire region.

Tensions will remain unless China and the US can smooth over their ties and North Korea does not have to be pressed by Cold War remnants. The conditions to effect a transformation are not optimal. We can only control the risks to avoid the worst scenarios. 

Posted in: Editorial

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