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‘If China acted like U.S., N. Korea would be further isolated’

JEJU ― China's taking a similar attitude to that of the United States to North Korea would only see the reclusive state slip deeper into isolation, a senior Chinese official said Saturday.

Such a move would mean that China could not adequately influence the communist state, said Zhao Qi Zheng, director of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Zhao Qi Zheng, director of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, speaks during a meeting of reporters on Jeju on Saturday.(Jeju Forum)
Zhao Qi Zheng, director of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, speaks during a meeting of reporters on Jeju on Saturday.(Jeju Forum)

Touching on public angst in South Korea over China’s unceasing support for the North, he stressed the importance of China’s mediating role at the six-party denuclearization dialogue.

“If China should treat the North in a similar way the U.S. has treated it, it would run counter to the historic relationship and tradition between China and the North,” he said during his keynote speech at the 6th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity.

“Should the North be completely cut off from the international community, China may not be able to capitalize on its capabilities to (persuade) North Korea.”

In the wake of the two deadly attacks last year that killed 50 South Koreans, including two civilians, South Koreans have expressed growing discontent over China’s continuous backing for the belligerent state.

Pointing out that China will commit itself to the early resumption of the multilateral aid-for-denuclearization dialogue, Zhao emphasized China’s role to maintain the “balance” in the stalled talks involving two Koreas, China, the U.S., Japan and Russia.

“The framework of the six-party talks is not something made of steel or concrete. It is like a bamboo in the exterior of a building or sort of a simple framework used to establish a building,” he said.

“If China does not keep the framework strong and if it takes an action that is leaning toward one side, the framework may collapse. Then, to re-establish it, it may take five or 10 years. How do you think North Korea’s nuclear programs will develop or change in that time period? We ask for your understanding of China’s position in that regard.”

In a meeting with reporters, which was held after his keynote speech, he expressed concern that the six-party talks may not resume soon should the South insist on first resolving issues concerning the two deadly attacks last year.

“I deeply understand the minds of the Seoul government and its people calling on the North to take responsibility for the two incidents. In my personal opinion, we need to have a long-term, broad perspective for the peninsular denuclearization as it would affect not only the peninsula, but also East Asia and the world,” he said.

“I believe that the two Koreas should resolve the issues over the two incidents through dialogue and negotiations. How to resolve the denuclearization issues is a real test for the two Koreas.”

Asked what China thinks of the ongoing second hereditary power succession process in the North, Zhao said that China is not in a position to criticize the “internal affairs.”

Some have denounced the North for its “anachronistic” father-to-son power handover, saying that China, having assumed the position of “G2” along with the U.S., should say something about the succession scheme.

“In fact, China is not G2. We are just your neighboring country. We are just large in terms of the size of our land and population … The issue involving the power transition is North Korea’s internal affairs,” he said.

“China, its neighboring state, is not in a position to criticize the internal affairs. If its society and people can accept (the hereditary succession), I believe that there is little other countries can say about it.”

Explaining that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to China last week was designed to give him a chance to learn from China’s economic developments, Zhao said that if North Korea reforms its economic system and opens up to the outside world, it would help enhance the well-being of its general populace.

“I don’t think the economic development model of China will necessarily be fit to North Korea as ours has originated from and is based on Chinese experience. But some parts of it could serve as reference for the North,” he said.

“Reform and open economic policies would help enhance its economy and well-being of its people. I believe the North Korean leader and his people will be wise and understand that open policies will be helpful in improving their current situations.”

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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