In beijing, heavy lifting was done in bi­lat­er­als

JoongAng Daily - - National - BY YOO JEE-HYE, SARAH KIM sarahkim@joongang.co.kr

What is seen is not al­ways what goes on be­hind the scenes, as shown in the com­pli­cated diplo­macy con­ducted in Beijing on the side­lines of the APEC sum­mit, es­pe­cially in a se­ries of bi­lat­eral talks be­tween the lead­ers’ of Ja­pan, China and Korea.

Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping ef­fec­tively con­cluded a Korea-China free trade agree­ment dur­ing their sum­mit on Mon­day and vowed to co­op­er­ate in en­cour­ag­ing North Korea to make a strate­gic choice to give up its nu­clear pro­gram.

But de­spite the ap­pear­ance of a uni­fied front, a closer look shows a de­vi­a­tion in their mes­sages in re­gards to the North.

Ju Chul-ki, Blue House se­nior sec­re­tary for for­eign af­fairs, said, “Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping reaf­firmed clearly op­po­si­tion to North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram and both coun­tries’ lead­ers agreed to bol­ster ef­forts to in­duce North Korea to make a strate­gic choice to give up nu­clear weapons.”

But the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry’s home­page em­pha­sized that Xi “with a flex­i­ble po­si­tion” hoped for the re­sump­tion of the six- party talks meant to de­nu­cle­arize the North.

T h e t a l k s among the U.S., China, Ja­pan, Rus­sia and the two Koreas broke down after Py­ongyang walked out in late 2008.

The Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry fur­ther said that Pres­i­dent Park replied that con­di­tions fa­vor­able for the re­sump­tion of the six party talks will be cre­ated.

Seoul left out any men­tion of the six-party talks while Beijing left out com­ments on “op­po­si­tion to the North Korean nu­clear pro­gram.”

De­spite the re­ported close bond be­tween the lead­ers, on sen­si­tive po­lit­i­cal is­sues, their in­ter­pre­ta­tions of­ten do not line up.

The is­sue of Korea’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the China-led Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIB) is another one that showed a dis­crep­ancy be­tween the two sides.

The AIIB is en­vi­sioned as a new fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion to ri­val the World Bank and the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank, which are dom­i­nated by Western coun­tries and Ja­pan, with the aim to cre­ate a new fi­nan­cial or­der cen­tered on China.

Korea has been hes­i­tant to join the bank, de­spite Beijing’s strong en­cour­age­ment, be­cause it could put a damper on its al­liance with the U.S. Wash­ing­ton has ex­pressed con­cerns that China will use the bank for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

Ju said that Park will “con­tinue close com­mu­ni­ca­tion on the is­sue.”

But Beijing said, “Pres­i­dent Park will ac­tively re­view par­tic­i­pa­tion in the AIIB.”

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and Xi held ice­break­ing talks for the first time since they took of­fice on the same day and were even pic­tured awk­wardly shak­ing hands and avoid­ing each other’s gazes.

The first face-to-face talks were an­tic­i­pated to sig­nal a pos­si­ble thaw in the tense bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

Abe held a press con­fer­ence af­ter­wards and his ease sug­gested that progress was made be­hind the scenes.

China and Ja­pan re­leased a joint four-point agree­ment of prin­ci­ples last Fri­day to de­velop mu­tual trust, face his­tory and look to the fu­ture, rec­og­nize ter­ri­to­rial is­sues ex­ist­ing be­tween the two coun­tries, and grad­u­ally re­sume po­lit­i­cal, diplo­matic and se­cu­rity di­a­logues.

The Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry posted on its English web­site a break­down of Xi’s talks with Abe and said that the Chi­nese leader re­peat­edly touched on his­tor­i­cal is­sues. The min­istry said that Xi “stressed that the is­sue of his­tory bears on the na­tional sen­ti­ment of the over 1.3 bil­lion Chi­nese peo­ple, as well as over­all peace, sta­bil­ity and de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion.” He also re­minded Abe to honor the Mu­rayama State­ment of 1995 apol­o­giz­ing for Ja­pan’s war ag­gres­sions.

It also added Beijing hopes that “the Ja­panese side would prop­erly han­dle rel­e­vant is­sues in strict ac­cor­dance” with the four-point prin­ci­pled agree­ment.

Abe told re­porters after the meet­ing, “Ja­pan and China took the first step to­ward im­prov­ing our re­la­tion­ship as we go back to the prin­ci­ple of mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial strate­gic re­la­tions.”

“In a sit­u­a­tion where his­tor­i­cal and ter­ri­to­rial ten­sions con­tin­ues,” said Cho Yang Hyun, a pro­fes­sor at the Korea Na­tional Diplo­matic Academy, “this shows an in­ten­tion to move for­ward.”

Xi said in his sum­mit with Park that tri­lat­eral for­eign min­is­te­rial talks among Korea, China and Ja­pan need to be held be­fore the year ends, a de­par­ture from Beijing’s past am­biva­lence to­wards Tokyo.

Park and Abe also talked for the first time since the March tri­lat­eral meet­ing with U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in The Hague with Park fo­cus­ing on the un­solved is­sue of Ja­panese mil­i­tary’s sex­ual en­slave­ment of women dur­ing its colo­nial rule of Korea.

Xi said in his sum­mit with Park that tri­lat­eral talks need to be held be­fore the year ends.

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