Events are taking a downward vector in Northeast Asia. I first picked up on this developing situation when I saw this story in the People’s Daily.
US President Barack Obama groundlessly blamed China for “blindness” to North Korea’s “belligerent behavior” in an alleged attack on the South Korean navel vessel the Cheonan while speaking at the G20 summit Monday. His words on such an important occasion, based on ignorance of China’s consistent and difficult efforts in pushing for peace on the peninsula, has come as a shock to China and the world at large. As a close neighbor of North Korea, China and its people have immediate and vital stakes in peace and stability on the peninsula. China’s worries over the North Korean nuclear issue are by no means less than those of the US. The US president should have taken these into consideration before making irresponsible and flippant remarks about China’s role in the region.
The facts speak for themselves, and very clearly so: China has made tremendous efforts in preventing the situation on the Korean Peninsula from getting out of control, including in the aftermath of the Cheonan incident. Without China’s involvement, there would not have been the Six-Party Talks, and the outbreak of yet another Korean War might well have been a possibility. It is thus not China that is turning a blind eye to what North Korea has done and has not done. Instead, it is the leaders of countries such as the US that are turning a blind eye on purpose to China’s efforts. The US president made the remarks only because China has not acted in accordance with the requests made by some countries. But those are unreasonable and irrational requests.
Historically and at present, China’s stance on the Koreas-related issues has been fundamentally different from those of some other countries. China does not have any territorial claims or interest in the region. China’s interest on the peninsula is only peace and stability on the peninsula, and that serves the best interests of China. True, not all that China has done in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear programs has been effective. But nor have the moves for sanctions and threats proposed by the US. The US president is blind to the great risks posed to the Korean Peninsula by Washington’s confrontationist approach.
Ultimately, the solution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula hinges on eliminating the last vestiges of the Cold War. This is the time for all sides involved to break the old, hardened pattern and think of new ways of dealing with North Korea. This is China’s constructive proposal that deserves serious consideration by all parties involved. The world should not turn a blind eye to North Korea’s power in resisting pressure, either. North Korea is a unique nation, a weak country that supports a massive army. This reveals its anxieties and nervousness toward the outside world. The outcome of reassuring North Korea would be much better than that of putting pressure on it. The US cannot ignore the fact that China remains the most important channel of effective communication in this situation. Closing the channel would leave the issue deadlocked. That is by no means what the world wants.
Add to the above this from the Chosun Ilbo.
A state-run Chinese newspaper on Tuesday criticized the South Korean government for allowing the 97,000-ton aircraft carrier George Washington of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet to join South Korea-U.S. military training scheduled late this month. In an editorial, Global News wrote the West Sea “is in proximity to China’s political hub of Beijing and Tianjin. If a U.S. aircraft carrier comes into the West Sea, mainland China falls under the military strategic influence of U.S. military forces. The people of China will not accept South Korea having military demonstration involving a U.S. aircraft carrier.”
It added U.S. forces appear to regard China “as their largest potential enemy, exposing a lack of strategic mutual trust between the U.S. and China. If South Korea wants to develop trust with China, it will have to consider the sentiments of the people of China.” The paper warned Seoul “will have difficulty taking any kind of step forward on issues concerning the whole Korean Peninsula without China’s understanding and cooperation.” What South Korea needs to do now is not to put pressure on China by frequently involving the U.S. and escalating tensions in Northeast Asia but seek ways to alleviate tensions in the peninsula, it added.
This also from the Chosun Ilbo.
The Chinese military is staging a live fire exercise in the East China Sea to the east of Zhejiang Province late this month as a joint naval exercise by South Korea and the U.S. in the West Sea looms. China’s East Sea Fleet will stage the exercise from June 30 until July 5, the Wenzhou Wanbao newspaper reported Monday. It is an annual drill but the schedule has been moved up by 10 days from last year’s July 10-15.
The point where the Chinese Navy plans to stage its annual exercise is some 700 km south of South Korea’s Taean Peninsula and is believed to constitute a counterweight to the massive U.S. naval presence the joint drill will bring to China’s doorstep. In a notice on June 24, the Chinese military banned ordinary ships from traveling through those waters between midnight and 6 p.m. while the drill is being staged.
To be continued.