As expected, the first talks between South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi ended without agreement, exposing a serious difference of position on an array of issues.
Wang came up with a proposal for five things both countries should do.
The first thing is to stay independent, self-reliant and free from external interference. This implies that South Korea is not independent from the sphere of US influence, so it should renounce the US alliance to be independent and self-reliant.
The second one is to take care of each other’s major concerns. Sounds plausible, but it is more like a demand for Seoul to try to dispel Beijing’s concerns, above all, about such issues as the advanced US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system deployed in South Korea.
The third one is to maintain stable and smooth production and supply chains. South Korea decided to join a preliminary meeting of a US-envisioned alliance known as “Chip 4” of four semiconductor powerhouses -- the US, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Whether to join Chip 4 or another US initiative, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, is a matter of South Korea’s economic sovereignty, which will be decided in consideration of its national interests
The fourth one is not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. THAAD in South Korea is a matter of its security-related sovereignty. China’s demands regarding the system is an interference in South Korea’s internal affairs. Chinese warplanes sometimes entered South Korea’s air defense identification zone without notice.
The fifth one is to abide by the purpose and principle of the UN Charter. Wang proposed both sides take care of each other’s concerns, but it is contradictory of China to cover up for North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, which threaten South Korea. China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution which proposed tougher sanctions on North Korea after the country’s ballistic missile tests. China’s demand regarding the UN charter sounds hollow.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said Wednesday that South Korea has even pledged to limit the operation of the THAAD on its soil in addition to the so-called “Three Nos.”
On top of the Three Nos, Beijing brought up “One Limit” -- what it claims to be South Korea’s pledge to limit THAAD operation -- just a day after the foreign ministerial talks. Wang Yi and Park agreed on efforts to prevent the THAAD issue from becoming a stumbling block to bilateral ties any more, then just a day after the talks, China raised the issue. This is open pressure on the Yoon administration over the THAAD issue.
China argues that the Moon Jae-in administration “promised” three No’s -- no deploying additional THAAD, no joining a US-led missile defense network and no getting involved in trilateral military alliance with Japan and the US.
Beijing argues the Yoon Suk-yeol administration should continue to keep the promise, but as the Yoon administration has said, the Three No’s were a “position” of the previous administration, not a promise nor an agreement. They are not binding.
If China takes care of South Korea’s concerns, it should try to remove the cause of the THAAD deployment. As Foreign Minister Park said, it is a means for self-defense from North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. It is a matter of South Korea’s security-related sovereignty. Without North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, South Korea would have no reason to bring in the system.
The five-point proposal sounds more like a guideline for South Korea and makes light of South Korea’s sovereignty.
The Yoon government should keep trying to develop relations with China, but not blindly. It must stand up to an unfair pressure while expanding cooperation.
By Korea Herald (email@example.com