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Restoring peace in Northeast Asia
Publication Date : 02-07-2014
Just three days before President Xi Jingping's visit to the Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea leader, attended a tactical rocket firing drill prompting many to speculate that Pyongyang is not happy with the visit.
Indeed, China has criticised the DPRK for conducting three nuclear tests. But it's not true that there has been a fundamental shift in China's DPRK policy. China still believes that one of the most urgent tasks in the region is to resolve the DPRK nuclear issue, but it still wants the countries engaged in the peace process to view Pyongyang's safety concerns more seriously.
On Monday, the DPRK urged that the two sides on the Korean Peninsula cease hostile military activities from later this week. This is an important development, and the countries eager to restore permanent peace in the region should respond suitably to the DPRK's proposal instead of regarding it as just an inane gesture.
The security situation in Northeast Asia is more serious than the other three sub-regions surrounding China - Southeast Asian, South Asian and Central Asian regions. Compared with the other three sub-regions, the Northeast Asian region's security dilemma can be overcome mainly by building a security mechanism and establishing multilateral exchanges. But since the necessary conditions for building a multilateral security mechanism in Northeast Asia are lacking, more efforts should be made to establish trilateral economic cooperation among China, the ROK and Japan.
Besides, the Six-Party Talks should be resumed as soon as possible. The DPRK's diplomatic relations have not normalised with either the ROK or Japan, and Sino-Japan ties have deteriorated because of the dispute in the East China Sea. So it has become more urgent to establish multilateral exchanges, and improve cultural and people-to-people relations.
Moreover, all the related parties should continue making efforts to safeguard common interests, accommodate each other's demands and jointly manage regional crises. A nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, peace and stability in Northeast Asia, economic development and cooperation in non-traditional security fields are important common interests of the countries in the region. In order to ensure that the DPRK abandons its nuclear program, all relevant parties should make efforts to help the DPRK on the economic and energy fronts. But their cooperation should be based on mutual respect, and conform to international laws, domestic public opinion and common interests. And China, the ROK and Japan should make efforts to establish win-win relationships with the DPRK by granting concessions.
The US and China, on their part, should meet halfway to help ease the tensions in the region. This is especially important because many of the region's problems can be traced to the US' actions to maintain its dominant position in the Asia-Pacific. So, China should take measures to establish a "new type of major-power relationship" with the US by improving bilateral militarily relations and other means in order to compel Washington to work with it to improve the security situation the region.
Crisis management in the region mainly depends on preventing the DPRK from conducting any more nuclear tests and stopping the other countries involved from provoking it to do so. The ultimate aim, however, should be to restore permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. It is thus important to free the DPRK from international isolation and help it to develop its economy. But this can become reality only if the US cooperates with China. Therefore, the onus of restoring permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula rests with the US.
The author is an associate professor at the National Institute of International Strategy, affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.