China-North Korea friendship key to peninsula peace

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-6-2 0:03:01

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Chinese president, on Wednesday met with a visiting delegation from North Korea's Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) led by Ri Su-yong, a member of the political bureau of the WPK's central committee and director of the party's International Department.

Ri was in China to give a briefing on the seventh congress of the WPK held in early May. His visit comes as Sino-North Korean ties are at a low ebb due to Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January and as China joined with the UN to impose tough sanctions on it. Therefore, Ri's visit has garnered international attention.

Both Beijing and Pyongyang have the will to maintain their traditional friendship and ease the tense relationship. Party-to-party exchanges still play a role in bridging divergences between the two countries. But at the same time, the two remain divided over North Korea's nuclear issue. During his meeting with Ri, Xi said China's stance on the issue of the Korean Peninsula is consistent and clear, while Pyongyang insists on its policy of simultaneously pursuing nuclear advances and economic development.

The complexity of Sino-North Korean ties will continue. As North Korea holds firm to its nuclear ambition, divergences over the matter will continue to vex bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, both have been adapting to the fact that major divergences remain and they are trying to avoid such divergences from overflowing.

Under the circumstances that China also endorses heavy sanctions on North Korea, many international forces are inciting confrontation between the two and trying to make their divergences into the main source of conflict in Northeast Asia. Ri's visit shows that both China and North Korea are rationally keeping away from this trap.

The issues around the Korean Peninsula, including North Korea's nuclear issue, are a big game. No single stakeholder can dictate the rules. China calls for denuclearization of the peninsula and regional peace and stability. Regrettably, the two goals are not as synthesized as people think given the current situation in the peninsula and China's security has been jeopardized.

No matter what, a normal and friendly Beijing-Pyongyang relationship will play a positive role in solving the latter's nuclear issue and in maintaining peace in Northeast Asia. When the situation becomes high-strung, Beijing often employs effective diplomacy to mediate among the different players.

But China is not a cure-all. The US and South Korea hope China can exert more pressure on the North or even shoulder the whole responsibility to persuade the North to give up its nuclear ambitions. This is a selfish thought. China has made great efforts and suffered the losses from a deteriorating relationship with Pyongyang. The US and South Korea have discussed deploying the THAAD missile system, which directly threatens China's security. As their relations with North Korea will remain bumpy, China's efforts should be respected.

China cannot make a breakthrough in North Korea's nuclear issue, but it serves as a balancing actor in the game. China hopes the peninsula can reach long-term peace in a way accepted by all, and that is how all stakeholders can find the largest shared interests.

Posted in: Editorial

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