U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited China on January 27 and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Their talks bore little fruit though.
This means China is still hesitating about a drastic change of its stance on North Korea and consequently, the North’s recent nuclear tests have turned out to be advantageous for its leader Kim Jong-un. As of now, China appears to be on the side of the North while becoming estranged at least a little bit from Seoul and Washington.
“Sanctions themselves should not be the purpose, and the only two solutions to the North Korean nuclear issue are dialogue and negotiation,” the Chinese foreign minister mentioned, clarifying that the Chinese government is opposed to the strict and comprehensive sanctions against North Korea, on which the international community is working. “The UN sanctions against Pyongyang will include trade between China and North Korea, but it seems that more talks are required with regard to details of the measures,” said the U.S. Secretary of State, implying that he failed to reach an agreement with China on certain issues.
What is worrisome is that South Korea could take a hit from the continuation of this disagreement between Beijing and Washington. The U.S. Secretary of State said on January 27 that the United States will do anything it needs to do in order to protect its allies. This remark shows that the U.S. is willing to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in the South to deal with North Korean threats. On the very same day, the Chinese state-run daily Global Times reported that the deployment of the missile defense system will put China in danger and jeopardize the mutual relations between China and South Korea.
With Seoul and Washington having failed to put pressure on Beijing, it is said that the Park Geun-hye administration is likely to return to the previous trilateral cooperation among S. Korea, the United States and Japan while dropping its policy to value much of China. Still, the South Korean government recently said that China’s opposition had already been predicted from the beginning and it would carry on with strategic communication with China in order to urge it to fulfill the upcoming UN Security Council resolution and encourage it to stick to its own sanctions for a long while.
The Global Times commented that Western countries’ proposals such as the halt of crude oil supply to the North and ban on North Korean national flag carriers’ flight in the airspace of China cannot be accepted by China, saying sanctions against North Korea have to aim at nothing but its nuclear programs. The U.S. is capable of this precision strike as a concept contrary to carpet bombing. Much attention is being paid to whether China will wink at it when Washington resorts to it.