Firmer hand won't sever N.Korean relations

By Wang Fan Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-1 23:38:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


North Korea declared Saturday the Korean Peninsula is entering a "state of war," escalating the situation once more.

China needs to cooperate more deeply on this issue with the US. This doesn't mean an alliance, since China's position is that the six parties involved should cooperate as peers.

Strategic cooperation between China and the US on the North Korean nuclear issue is very significant. Such cooperation is not only possible, but is practically needed. The degree of the cooperation can influence other countries involved in the issue.

For a long time, despite ideological differences, China and the US have shared common interests on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and maintaining the stability there.

China's policy toward North Korea should shift over time, but it should not be done at the cost of losing China's influence or causing confrontations with North Korea.

The US attitude toward North Korea should also be more positive and constructive. Obviously, in the future, cooperation between China and the US will be of particular significance in resolving or controlling the crisis following the North's nuclear test.

Some worry that cooperation between China and the US will undermine China's influence on the North. But this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

If North Korea really turns to the US, it will lose its flexibility to make strategic choices. The US will be in the driving position and keep North Korea under control.

China should maintain its normal state-to-state relationship with North Korea, and prevent this relationship from deteriorating. China should continue to promote a soft landing for the situation on the peninsula. However, at the same time, it should make North Korea realize that a soft landing doesn't equal tolerance toward North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons or constant nuclear tests.

China should prevent North Korea from continuing its wrong path. Putting necessary pressure on the North seems inevitable. In the long run, China should persistently help North Korea to move toward openness, which will benefit the North Korean people and regional peace and prosperity.

North Korea is walking on the edge of the cliff. The more it blusters about war, the stronger the desire it has for peace. It wants to sue for peace by raising the specter of war.

But the precondition of such strategy is that North Korea believes other countries are more afraid than itself about a war. Cooperation on coping with war risks among China, the US and some other countries will fundamentally change North Korea's grave misjudgments.

Without China's positive and just mediation, the US cannot achieve true reconciliation with North Korea.

If the relationship between China and the US worsens, the strategic value of North Korea will rise. So North Korea may be glad to see disagreements between China and the US, which will allow it to bargain with the two countries separately.

Thus cooperation between China and the US on the North Korean nuclear issue will help China maintain its influence on North Korea and enhance global strategic collaboration between China and the US.

Only by establishing multilateral security mechanism based on the Six-Party Talks and using the assurance of regional security to maintain the security of relevant countries, can the North Korean nuclear problem be fundamentally resolved.

If the US is not determined to resolve the problem by safeguarding regional security, there's no possibility for other relevant countries, including China, to resolve this problem. The US is not so naïve as to believe that the North Korean nuclear issue can be resolved by China itself.

On the overall cooperation between China and the US, the US cannot shirk its responsibility or shift focus. It is also unreasonable for the US to use traditional alliances to control regional security while asking China, which has no bilateral or multilateral regional security guarantees, to be responsible for regional security.

The author is a professor at China Foreign Affairs University.

Posted in: Viewpoint

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