China must stay out of Peninsula chaos

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/19 23:08:39 Last Updated: 2016/9/19 23:18:39

Foreign ministers of the US, Japan and South Korea met in New York on Sunday, ahead of the UN General Assembly session. They released a joint statement on the latest nuclear test by North Korea, the first such document by foreign ministers of the three countries since 2010.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said the three sides all believed that North Korea must pay the price for its latest provocations. US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear plans so as to "bring countries together and to begin a serious negotiation about the future."

Based on open source satellite imagery, analysts believe North Korea may have completed preparations for three more nuclear tests that could occur at any time, according to US and South Korean media.

Their joint statement shows the tough stance of the three countries toward North Korea, while it also reveals their anxiety over the reality that North Korea may conduct new nuclear tests and international sanctions are hardly effective. They are probably pessimistic about their solutions, but they have to pretend that they are standing firm.

North Korea has been able to resist the pressure of international sanctions. While Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have strengthened sanctions, Pyongyang has moved ahead with its nuclear and missile tests. Pyongyang has gained the initiative, at least in a short term.

What's worse, Pyongyang, in utter isolation, seems to be abusing the initiative, forcing the situation to a tipping point. At the current stage, North Korea's nuclear threat remains at a theoretical level. But once the threat against the US becomes real and urgent, what will happen? It is believed the leaders of some stakeholders have thought of intemperate means.

China can barely influence North Korea. Nor can it persuade South Korea, the US and Japan. Despite enormous efforts made by China, the situation has spiraled out of China's control. China is opposed to wars and chaos on the Korean Peninsula, but this should not become the reason for it to shoulder the highest responsibility. 

If the confrontation between North Korea and the above three countries takes an irrational turn, China should consider preventing such a confrontation. Meanwhile, it should develop the ability that enables it to stay out of any chaos. China should not allow other parties to have unrealistic expectations from the country.

China should enhance its ability to avoid the crisis in the peninsula from threatening China's interest. It can set red lines such as the location of North Korea's nuclear test should not be too close to Chinese borders and military deployment of US and South Korea cannot directly threaten China.

China may leave the hostility between the two sides as it is. When they all feel troubled about a possible war, they may become willing to listen to China and make a compromise under China's mediation.

Keeping a low profile does not mean China will give up its influence in Northeast Asia. China can upgrade its strategic nuclear deterrence and have a final say on the peninsula issue.

China should be prepared for the worst-case scenario on the Korean Peninsula, while at the same time move in the best direction, which will make it feel strategically relaxed.

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