Bei­jing’s pol­icy still the best for penin­sula

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

After the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea con­ducted its fifth nu­clear test ear­lier this month, China’s Korean Penin­sula pol­icy has come in for some scathing crit­i­cism. Some ar­gue the DPRK is out of con­trol “un­der China’s watch”, with oth­ers even blam­ing Bei­jing for Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mis­sile tests, and the de­ploy­ment of the US’ Ter­mi­nalHigh Al­ti­tude Area De­fense sys­tem in the Repub­lic of Korea.

It is true that the penin­sula is on the verge of de­scend­ing to a mess, but blam­ing China for it is base­less. The root cause of the sim­mer­ing re­gional ten­sion lies in the United States’ ill-de­signed penin­sula strat­egy and the DPRK’s in­ex­pli­ca­ble se­cu­rity con­cerns.

The US is prin­ci­pally re­spon­si­ble for the sit­u­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula, and wants it to re­main in a “con­trol­lable mess”. In other words, Washington has no in­ten­tion of help­ing im­prove the sit­u­a­tion, be­cause it still wants to use Py­ongyang’s nu­clear am­bi­tions as a lever­age to jus­tify its pres­ence in­North­east Asia. That ex­plains why it has, from time to time, made light of the DPRK’s nu­clear threat is­sue, which in turn has prompted the lat­ter to ex­pe­dite its nu­clear pro­gram.

The DPRK, to some ex­tent, has added fuel to the fire it started in the first place. In the ini­tial stages, the Soviet Union, not China, pro­vided most of the ma­te­ri­als and mis­siles for the DPRK’s nu­clear pro­gram. And the long­stand­ing hos­til­ity be­tween Py­ongyang andWash­ing­ton has prompted the DPRK to re­main com­mit­ted to the nu­clear pro­gram.

Even the fail­ure to pro­vide solid ev­i­dence that Iraq and Libya pos­sess chem­i­cal and nu­clear weapons didn’t stop the US from launch­ing mil­i­tary strikes on the two coun­tries. Due to this fact, cou­pled with the in­creas­ing mus­cle-flex­ing joint US-ROK drills, the DPRK sees the US as its big­gest se­cu­rity threat and be­lieves de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons is the only way to keep the “en­emy” at bay.

Although China did not start the bed­lam and can­not re­solve the sit­u­a­tion on its own, it has its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a ma­jor re­gional power and neigh­bor of the DPRK. To end the threat of per­ilous clashes through peace­mak­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions, it has of­fered fea­si­ble plans in­clud­ing the Six-Party Talks, which was re­gret­fully stalled in 2009 after the DPRK re­fused to be part of it. As a re­sult, Washington, like Seoul, con­tin­ues to be at odds with Py­ongyang.

Bei­jing is not re­spon­si­ble for ei­ther Py­ongyang’s nu­clear pro­gram or the dis­pute be­tween the DPRK and the ROK, let alone the volatile US-DPRK re­la­tion­ship. It is ridicu­lous to pass any judg­ment on China’s penin­sula pol­icy with­out tak­ing all the fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion.

De­spite its pur­suit of “de­nu­cle­ariza­tion” and “non-con­fronta­tion” on the penin­sula suf­fer­ing a blow, China has not given up its re­solve. A nu­clear-free Korean Penin­sula is in the in­ter­ests of all par­ties, but that will be pos­si­ble only if the US takes se­ri­ous mea­sures to pre­vent a pos­si­ble nu­clear con­fronta­tion be­tween the DPRK and the ROK.

Be­ing a staunch sup­porter of non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, China will do ev­ery­thing in its power to pre­vent the Korean Penin­sula from turn­ing into a nu­clear pow­der keg. And it will need the US’ co­op­er­a­tion to keep the nu­clear is­sue un­der con­trol. Such a strat­e­gy­may not be per­fect, but China has helped main­tain a del­i­cate bal­ance on the penin­sula which other­wise would have fallen into com­plete chaos.

The au­thor is an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor on Korea Penin­sula stud­ies at Fu­dan Univer­sity.


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