Peace cannot be denied at any cost. It is the ultimate goal and wisdom of any conflict. On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear issue, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK) opened peace talks on 9 January.
The primary purpose was to finalise arrangements for the participation of the DPRK in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea in February, where a new mutual inter-Korean enthusiasm would likely to emerge. Important diplomatic initiatives, evolving understanding between the two militaries, reconciliation, national unification, and cooperation in a number of fields were also discussed to bring peace on the Korean Peninsula.
In the second parallel development, a meeting was convened in Vancouver, Canada, on January 16 to discuss the DPRK’s denuclearisation, to implement the UN Security Council’s sanctions strictly and to further limit Pyongyang’s access to refined petroleum products, crude oil, and industrial goods. The meeting was a pressure tactic to put maximum pressure on the DPRK to set aside its nuclear weapons in a hostile manner rather than negotiating.
The meeting was attended by 20 allied nations of the United States, who sent troops to fight in the Korean War during 1950-53. Some of the member countries of the Vancouver meeting were even irrelevant as far the Korean Peninsula’s crisis was concerned. The meeting was sponsored by the United States and Canada.
China and Russia, the two crucial allies of the DPRK were absent. China believes that other diplomatic and political issues also need to be discussed, while Russia termed the Vancouver meeting ‘destructive’.
To consider that the Vancouver meeting would bring peace on the Korean Peninsula looks out of the question. It is just a gathering of nations hostile to the DPRK. China is the main pillar of strength of any peace talks between the two Koreas, and its absence cannot bring any possibility of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Lamenting on the Vancouver meeting, the spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign affairs, Lu Kang termed the Vancouver gathering the ‘Cold War mentality’, ‘to undermine the peace efforts’ that ‘would not help’, to resolve the DPRK’s nuclear issue.
China has, therefore, adopted a right stance on the Vancouver meeting by condemning it. While the two Koreas are talking to each other and participating in the Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea in coming February, the Vancouver meeting could sabotage and undermine such mutually agreed peace efforts.
China’s special envoy for North Korea, Kong Xuanyou, urged the United States to seize the opportunity to seek direct talks with the DPRK. The Beijing-based Global Times said on 15 January that “Washington seems to be reviving the long-forgotten multinational military alliance.” The paper went on to state: ‘Having had China and Russia demand it talk to North Korea, the US wants to justify the high pressure it has exerted on North Korea and get others’ endorsement for its policy on the peninsula.’ Again, an inter-Korean solution would be missing at the Vancouver. The meeting could simply damage the peace efforts.
China is the main pillar of strength of any peace talks between the two Koreas. There is no possibility of peace on the Korean Peninsula if it is absent
China’s policy on the DPRK is unchanged and continuously yielding positive outcomes even during the critical junctures. China has been encouraging for the peace talks between the two Koreas without an iota of doubt and misunderstanding. It has been watching the evolving situation as a sincere observer without making any interference.
However, the meeting would be a setback for the emerging detente between the two Koreas. Such efforts should be thwarted away as they would be a stumbling block toward peace efforts, which is urgently required on the Korean Peninsula.
The writer is Director of the China-Pakistan Study Centre at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He writes on East Asian affairs
Published in Daily Times, January 23rd 2018.