Posted on : May.19,2017 10:51 KST
Modified on : May.19,2017 10:51 KST
Chinese expert says Seoul and Beijing nevertheless must address issues of THAAD and how to approach North Korea
During an interview with the Hankyoreh’s Beijing correspondent on May 12, Jin Canrong, a renowned expert on international relations and associate dean of the School of International Studies at China’s Renmin University, said that China wants stable relations with South Korea but predicted that bilateral conflict over the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system would impel China to take steps to expand its military that are aimed at the US. While predicting that North Korea and China will maintain their “alliance” for the time being, he said that the international community will keep up pressure on North Korea and that South Korea’s Sunshine Policy will contribute to peace in Northeast Asia.
Hankyoreh (Hani): Do you think there’s a way out of the THAAD issue?
Jin Canrong (Jin): China will gradually divorce the THAAD issue from its relations with South Korea. China will respond to THAAD since the system harms its strategic security, but it will seek stability in bilateral relations. In that sense, if technical steps are taken with the equipment that has already been deployed, such as keeping the radar pointed to the north and not turning it to the west, and if no more equipment is deployed, there could be a way out.
Hani: Would that be enough to satisfy China?
Jin: It wouldn’t satisfy China. China would prefer for THAAD not to be deployed at all, but I’m talking about a point at which the two sides can reach an understanding.
Hani: The US is eager to deploy THAAD.
Jin: The decision is rooted in the needs of the US military establishment. They’re seeking military supremacy over China, and I think China will take retaliatory measures on a military and technical level, such as deploying strategic weapons. These weapons will probably be aimed directly at the US, in a way that is unconnected to South Korea. Once the retaliatory measures are ready and the “strategic balance” has been restored, one chapter of the influence on China-South Korea relations will come to an end.
Hani: What will happen to the economic measures that China took against South Korea in retaliation to the THAAD deployment?
Jin: These measures have had some effect on South Korean investments in China and on reducing Chinese tourists to South Korea. But overall, I don’t think that China was trying to harm its relations with the South. It’s hard to even regard them as real sanctions. Certain economic activities were affected by the poor political environment.
Hani: There seems to be considerable tension in China’s relations with North Korea as well. Recently, there has even been a debate in the Chinese media about the fate of the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty.
Jin: That’s an issue that will be decided in 2020. The friendship treaty is renewed automatically every 20 years, and the next renewal is due in 2021. If the issue isn’t brought up a year early, the treaty will probably be renewed as is. If the decision were made today, China would likely choose to keep the treaty. China wants a peaceful resolution to Korean Peninsula issues, and North Korea in the end probably wants a peace treaty with the US as well. That will probably take some time, and I think China will keep the treaty until that happens. If China cancels its treaty with North Korea before the North signs a treaty with the US, Pyongyang will be pushed into a desperate corner. China doesn’t want Pyongyang to feel psychologically desperate.
Hani: There obviously are some people in China who want to sever ties with North Korea.
Jin: During 30 years of liberalization and reforms, public opinion in China has become every bit as diverse as in South Korea. It’s normal for there to be conflicting opinions, but the important thing is what the government will do. The government will maintain its treaty with North Korea, and if it does make some kind of decision, that will happen in 2020.
Hani: Since US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the US and China have been emphasizing cooperation on the issue of North Korea, but there appear to be differences between the US policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” and the Chinese proposal for “simultaneous suspension” of nuclear testing, missile launches and joint military exercises and “simultaneous pursuit” of denuclearization and a peace treaty.
Jin: The two sides are in agreement on their opposition to North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons and on their view that the situation on the Korean Peninsula has entered a decisive stage. But China is opposed to the use of force, and in light of that the US has agreed to give China time to find a peaceful solution. The US has indicated it will find a military solution with its allies if China‘s peaceful efforts fail. For now, it appears that the US will remain in the phase of “maximum pressure,” using military threats, political pressure from the UN and its allies, and sanctions from China.
Hani: What do the US and China think about the Moon Jae-in administration’s plan to “inherit and develop” the Sunshine Policy?
Jin: The Trump administration wants peace, too. In the end, everyone is seeking a political and peaceful solution, and for South Korea to offer a little “sunshine” will probably help the cause of peace. The Sunshine Policy of the Kim Dae-jung [1998-2003] and Roh Moo-hyun [2003-08] administrations succeeded in some respects and failed in others. The Sunshine Policy should not be repeated exactly but instead given an update. We need a balanced middle way that combines rewards and punishments, the carrot and the stick. You could call it the balanced policy.
By Kim Oi-hyun, Beijing correspondent
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