Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 04, 08-07-2014
Small steps, Road to peace
Xi Jinping’s Seoul Visit Promotes Closer S. Korea-China Ties
On Friday July 4th, to round off his two day visit to Seoul, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech that called for a greater coordination between South Korea and China. Xi’s referencing of hardships both China and South Korea suffered in the past at the hands of Japan sent a clear message; a stronger Chinese-South Korean unity could be used to keep an increasingly right-wing Japan in line. While the South Korean government would find it tough to directly criticize Japan for its right-wing stance due to considerations about its trilateral cooperation with the US and Japan, Xi’s message was interpreted as an appeal to the South Korean public on the importance of coordination against Tokyo.
In addition to talking about joint-security interests against Japan Xi expressed the need for improved inter-Korean relations, ““You are facing complex security threats, but you need to resolve your differences and disputes and help create a peaceful environment.” Xi went on to express his opposition to nuclear weapons “on the Korean Peninsula”, this comment has been interpreted as Xi expressing China’s opposition to both North Korea’s nuclear program and also any potential South Korean nuclear armament or obtainment of nuclear arms via their alliance with the U.S. Needless to say, the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in North-East Asia would be most unwelcome in China. However, despite this public expression of opposition to North Korea’s nuclear program, experts doubt China’s role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue will change much. The only noteworthy announcement on tackling the North Korean nuclear issue came via a joint statement which called for the resumption of the Six Party Talks, which has long been China’s preferred method of dealing with the nuclear issue.
Much has been made of Xi’s breaking of tradition in being the first Chinese President in more than 20 years to visit Seoul before Pyongyang. It left many wondering if China was beginning to remove itself from its long-standing role of North Korea’s closest supporter. This coincides with South Korean-Chinese relations being proclaimed, by Chinese paper Xinhua, as “their best in history”. Evidence of these improved ties can be seen in the close Chinese-South Korean trade relationship, the high number of tourists and foreign students traveling between the two nations, and the increased number of high-level official exchanges. What this new closer South Korean-Chinese alliance will mean for the two countries respective relations with neighbors Japan and North Korea remains to be seen.
Source : The Diplomat, JoongAng Daily, The Hankyoreh
Japan to Soften Sanctions Against North Korea
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a press conference on July 3rd to explain his decision to lift some of Japan’s sanctions against North Korea in an attempt to resolve the issue of the North’s abduction of Japanese nationals. It appears Tokyo has taken the first step in normalizing diplomatic relations with the North after an 8 year spell of sanctions that started in the wake of North Korean missile launches in 2006. The involvement of mainstay North Korean state organizations such as the National Defense Commission and State Security Department in the investigation into the fate of abducted Japanese nationals has led Japan to believe that the North Koreans would make a ‘genuine effort’ with the investigation. Thus, Abe announced that as North Korea appears to be coming good on its promises from talks earlier this month, Japan would lift some sanctions on an ‘action for action’ basis.
Japan’s decision to relax some of its sanctions on North Korea have been read by some observers as a strategic attempt to establish closer relations with North Korea. An improved relationship with the Pyongyang would be beneficial to Abe’s regime as it allows him to gain support for addressing the abductee issue as well as counterbalancing the recent closer alignment of China and South Korea against Japan over historical issues and Japan’s decision to exercise collective self-defense. From the North Korean perspective, a closer bond with Japan could be read as an attempt to enlist support from Japan in an attempt to reconstruct its economy as well as lessening its reliance on China, with whom relations have recently cooled.
Source : The Hankyoreh, The Hankyoreh
South Korea Rejects North Korea’s Peace Proposal
South Korea took just 24 hours to consider and reject a peace proposal from North Korea’s National Defense Commission. The timing of the peace proposal coming between the North’s latest missile launch and Chinese leader Xi’ visit to Seoul has been interpreted by some as a way for Pyongyang trying to win back some favor from Beijing, whilst also remaining defiant in its development and testing of missiles and other forms of military hardware.
The peace proposal aimed to reduce tensions and end the bilateral “slander” and “all hostile military activities” was made up of two parts; the first proposal was that South Korea stop acquiring U.S. military hardware. Additionally, the North “demanded” that the South cancel the upcoming joint military exercises with the U.S. in order to create the “right atmosphere for inter-Korean exchanges”, which includes the Incheon Asian Games, which the North will be participating in. The peace proposal didn’t all out oppose joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea if they were staged off the Korean peninsula, suggesting a secluded area of the U.S. as an alternative location.
The second proposal was an end to both sides’ hostile military acts along areas of confrontations such as areas in the West Sea. The proposal specifically mentioned ending the firing of rounds and shells in the West Sea, as well as calling for the cessation of “intrusions into waters being escalated by South Korean navy.”
The South was never realistically likely to accept the conditions set out by the North in the peace proposal. Additionally, reports claim that the South Korean Ministry of Unification rejected the proposal as it was “total nonsense” to suggest the creation of a peaceful atmosphere whilst the North continues to develop nuclear weapons. Therefore the South Korean government is unlikely to accept any further offers or proposals from the North until Pyongyang can demonstrate a firm commitment to ending its nuclear program.
Source : 38 North, CNN, The Diplomat
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