Seoul’s diplo­matic in­de­pen­dence key to penin­sula peace

Global Times US Edition - - EDITORIAL - By Wen Yi

With ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula eas­ing, Seoul is con­sid­er­ing lift­ing some of its uni­lat­eral sanc­tions against its north­ern neigh­bor, ac­cord­ing to South Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha.

A close look at international me­dia cov­er­age of this is­sue would lead one to be­lieve that it is eas­ier said than done. Ob­servers noted that the move may en­large the rup­ture be­tween Seoul and Washington or even re­sult in a break in ties.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has al­ready op­posed the idea, say­ing, “They do noth­ing with­out our ap­proval.”

This shows that the US, de­spite its ge­o­graph­i­cal dis­tance from the re­gion, holds the key for peace on the Korean Penin­sula. None­the­less, this may be the big­gest stum­bling block to peace­fully solv­ing the nu­clear crisis on the penin­sula.

For a long time, South Korea has been in a sub­jec­tive po­si­tion in its al­liance with the US and could barely ex­er­cise its diplo­matic in­de­pen­dence on the penin­sula is­sue. The US also main­tains South Korea’s war­time op­er­a­tional con­trol. Its over-reliance on the US does not help South Korea pull it­self out of a se­cu­rity dilemma. Seoul has sur­ren­dered its ini­tia­tive on the penin­sula to Washington.

As the main stake­holder on the penin­sula, South Korea does not have the ca­pac­ity to shape its own in­ter­ests, but has to fol­low the whims of the US. That is why South Korea had to re­spond to US dis­plea­sure dur­ing US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo’s visit to the coun­try. Pom­peo ex­pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion with an agree­ment reached last month be­tween the two Koreas to re­duce con­ven­tional mil­i­tary threats be­tween them.

Seoul needs peace on the penin­sula much more than Washington, but Washington’s pol­icy to­ward the penin­sula is based on its own in­ter­ests, not Seoul’s. If South Korea con­tin­ues to fol­low the US, peace on the penin­sula will rest en­tirely in the hands of the US.

South Korea’s lack of diplo­matic in­de­pen­dence has also led to Chi­nese dis­trust, as Bei­jing op­poses deployment of the US anti-mis­sile sys­tem Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense, touted as a se­cu­rity guar­an­tee for South Korea. Nev­er­the­less, the deployment fits the broader US strate­gic cal­cu­la­tion to jeop­ar­dize China’s in­ter­ests. By pay­ing heed to Washington’s se­cu­rity con­cerns and bind­ing it­self to the Washington war char­iot, Seoul has risked ru­in­ing its re­la­tions with Bei­jing.

South Korea has been bold about en­gag­ing with the North re­cently and the US should be sup­port­ive of these ef­forts for the sake of re­gional peace. The grad­ual with­drawal of US troops can be co­or­di­nated with the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion and re­uni­fi­ca­tion process of the Korean Penin­sula.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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