The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) resumed political talks on 9 January and again on 15 January along the demilitarised zone after communications between them were exhausted in February 2016. These talks were a major breakthrough after two years.
Credit of this breakthrough must go to Kim Jong-un who in his New Year’s message sent to create peace with ROK, wishing to open the dialogue to resolve outstanding disputes between the both countries. The ROK also unreservedly hailed the DPRK’s move. The important role played by Moon Jae-in since coming into power cannot be denied who opted to open the dialogue instead of taking Donald Trump’s rhetoric of war against the DPRK. Moon is a left-leaning politician and believes in reconciliation.
The resumption of the peace talks could be termed as the Kim-Moon joint effort putting a new vigour in the Sunshine policy of the late 1990s. He paid a visit to Pyongyang in June 2000, making the first high-level contact between them after the Korean War. Both Kim and Moon have written new history in relations between the two countries by reviving the spirit of the Sunshine policy.
Powers concerned have shown their own typical response over the situation. The United States and Japan expressed their willingness over the resumption of the talks between the two Koreas along with reservations. Russia and China fully appreciated the resumption of the talks without suggesting any preconditions.
Because of the mounting tension between the two Koreas, China was under severe pressure to persuade the DPRK to shun its belligerent postures. China tried to persuade the DPRK, but not much success was achieved and China continued under pressure and the UN Security Council continued with imposing new sanctions on DPRK.
The new situation is, however, a welcome move for China as it for long was anticipating for a peace move between the two Koreas. It cannot be said that ball is in the court of the ROK. Both the ROK and the DPRK have been equally responding and sharing the responsibility and talks are well progressing and rapidly changing the strategic atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula. The nascent inter-Korean-led peace needs the support of the outside powers but not interference or dictation to successfully achieve the goals of the peace. China has been supporting the process as well as keeping the distance so that it should not become Chinese intervention in the process.
China supported the two Koreas’ efforts to improve bilateral relations, ease tensions and realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. President Xi Jinping made a telephone call to President Moon on 11 January appreciating the opening of the dialogue between the two Koreas. “All sides concerned should make joint efforts to keep up the hard-won momentum for the easing of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and create conditions to restart talks,” he was quoted as saying. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang, in a press conference in Beijing shortly after top officials of the two Koreas met on 9 January, said that “we are pleased to see such high level talks being held between the two sides.
Moon has also improved ties with China, deteriorated because of the deployment of the American THAAD missile system in South Korea. He visited Beijing in December. The new inter-Korean development is another opportunity to improve the China-South Korea ties besides positive impacts on the Korean Peninsula. China hoped the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is a right step to improving the inter-Korean ties. With the same token, there are also brighter chances of improving the United States-North Korea ties as well as North Korea-Japan ties.
China, however, took a pessimistic stance over the Vancouver talks, jointly sponsored by the United States and Canada, on North Korea issue because China and Russia, two important allies of North Korea, were not invited to participate in the meeting. Second, the meeting’s primary objective was to pressurise North Korea for denuclearization and focus on better implement the UN sanctions. China believes that other issues also need to be discussed. Third, the Vancouver meeting invited those American allies who sent troops to fight in the Korean War during 1950-53. These are 20 nations.
To consider that the Vancouver meeting would bring peace on the Korean Peninsula looks out of question. It is just a gathering of nations hostile to North Korea and there would be no possibility of bringing peace on the Korean Peninsula. China has adopted, therefore, a right stance on the Vancouver meeting by condemning it. While the two Koreas are taking to each other and participating at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in coming February, the Vancouver meeting could sabotage such mutually agreed peace efforts and when tension is easing.
In short, it also looks that the Vancouver meeting intends to revive the Cold War mentality on the Korean issue. Such efforts should be prevented as they would be stumbling block toward peace efforts, which is urgently required on the Korean Peninsula.