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Northeast Asia Peace Initiative

Chu: China’s Role in Establishing Permanent Peace in Korea

Non-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula: From host to commitment

It seems that there will be no permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula without the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue. Therefore, the nuclear issue and its resolution is the starting point for establishing permanent peace in Korea. For years, during the Four-Party Talks and the Six-Party Talks, China considered itself as merely the host of talks between the real parties, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States. China supported the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but did not view the problem as a Chinese problem. It simply saw the nuclear issue as a problem of the US and North Korea, or a problem between North Korea and other countries such as the Republic of Korea and Japan.

As China tries hard to keep the Six-Party Talks going, it becomes committed to the process and goal of non-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese delegation to the Six-Party Talks worked hard to reach the “September Statement” in 2005 and the “February 13 Statement” in 2007; all state clearly that non-nuclearization is the commitment of all six countries and the goal of the Six-Party Talks. China now is pressing every party in the Six-Party Talks to fulfill the commitment and reach the goal of non-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the Six-Party Talks.

Chinese-North Korean relations: From bilateral to multilateral

For more than half a century, since 1949 until very recently, the Chinese government valued its bilateral relations with North Korea more than anything else. It valued the bilateral relationship above any other issues, including resolving the nuclear problem.

However, with the developing commitment to the non-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and with the growing frictions with DPRK over missile and nuclear tests in July and October 2006, the Chinese government shifted its positions significantly. Now the Chinese seem to take non-nuclearization and Six-Party Talks as the conditions for “normal” good relations between China and DPRK. In other words, the Chinese do not think they can maintain good relations with the North if the latter will not go along with the Six-Party Talks and fulfill its commitment to denuclearization. Business cannot be as it was during the past fifty years.

Therefore, if North Korea will not go along with the process of the Six-Party Talks and destroy its nuclear weapons in the next few years, China is more ready than before to go further with the international community in greater economic sanctions and isolation of North Korea.

The roadmap of permanent peace in Korea: Six-Party mechanism

In the February 13 Statement, all six countries agreed to study the possibility of establishing a permanent peace regime in Northeast Asia. The working group led by Russia and DPRK held its first meeting earlier. It is likely that the Six-Party Talks can turn into the multilateral peace mechanism in Northeast Asia, if the process progresses well and succeeds in resolving the nuclear issue. If it does not succeed, the other five countries, DPRK, China, United States, Japan, and Russia, seem to be ready to form a multilateral mechanism to manage security issues in the region.

The Republic of Korea can play the most significant role in establishing permanent peace in Korea, and China will continue to support the South in the inter-Korean process of reunification and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

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