“A unification of the Korean Peninsula is the ultimate solution of the North Korean nuclear issue,” President Park Geun-hye said after a summit meeting between South Korea and China on Sept. 3, adding, “I had in-depth discussions on peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula with China.” However, what really matters here is that China’s national interests behind the diplomatic gesture of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who gave profuse red carpet hospitality to President Park, may go against President Park’s unification plan.
Since the normalization of diplomatic ties between South Korea and China, China has never changed its stance on the unification issue. At its core, China is opposed to any absorptive unification involving a violent process, and any foreign power’s intervention when a contingency takes place on the Korean peninsula, while saying that it supports a peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula by the Korean people. It means that China can never tolerate a unified Korea with U.S. troops stationed in it.
Even though North Korea and China now have an uneasy relationship, there is no proof that China revised Deng Xiaoping’s guidance of 1992 that North Korea is China’s rampart to protect China’s northeastern region. Furthermore, there is no evidence of China admitting a scenario of South Korea-led unification.
The South Korean government reportedly persuaded the U.S. about President Park’s attendance of China’s Victory Day event, with the logic that South Korea cannot help but care first about the relationship with a China that exerts a big influence on North Korea and the unification of the Korean peninsula. Starting the discussion with China, South Korea is to make progress in discussing the unification issue with its neighboring countries such as the U.S., Japan, and Russia, according to the logic.
Some experts claimed that South Korea did not need to bring up the unification-first theory so quickly after South Korea reached an agreement between high-ranking South and North Korean officials on Aug. 25, in a touch-and-go situation involving a firefight. This is because they believe that North Korea is suspecting that President’s Park’s unification drive aims at unification through absorption, and may play a negative role in the talks. Some predict that North Korea will carry out a fourth nuke test in honor of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Labor Party.
In the meantime, President Obama and President Xi Jinping both voiced strong opposition to North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and launching missiles in a joint press conference held in Washington on Sept. 25 (local time). Accordingly, President Park needs to minimize confusion by clarifying her position about unification during her visit to the U.S. This is because an expansion of the immature unification issue in the U.S. will not do any good to further discuss the matter, but on the contrary, weaken the U.S.’s concentration on North Korean nuke issues, making Washington just repeat its basic attitudes against the North.