Dual suspension on Korean Peninsula takes effect at Olympics
China is not part of direct confrontation on the North Korean nuclear issue, but is a stakeholder in the peninsula situation. Given its might, China alone can shape the strategic environment of regional disputes. The situation on the peninsula will see fundamental changes depending on whether China follows the US, Japan and South Korea in sanctioning the North or supports North Korea in becoming a nuclear state. But China sticks to UN resolutions and is a determining force in preventing the region from spiraling into unrest and war.
Beijing proposed a suspension-for-suspension approach last year which was supported by Moscow. Although Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington have not publicly responded to the proposal, they are gradually moving toward this direction. The approach was realized for the first time by the two sides during the Olympics.
The easing of tensions between the two Koreas should continue, as this is in the best interests of all parties concerned. Chinese sincerely wish an end to South-North confrontation. This would not jeopardize international efforts to denuclearize the peninsula, but instead facilitate the full implementation of UN resolutions.
Seoul and Pyongyang don’t need external forces to teach them the significance of peace. China is happy to see closer North-South ties, as this conforms to the country’s interests.
China encourages improved Pyongyang-Seoul relations and supports direct Pyongyang-Washington talks. Beijing seeks a practical solution to the nuclear crisis, rather than jockeying for status in the peace process. While countries like Japan actively voice their opinions out of fear of becoming marginalized, China’s influence on the issue cannot be overlooked even if it keeps silent.
All sides expect China to shoulder responsibilities in a way that benefits them. The interactions on the peninsula are sophisticated and need to be interpreted by professional diplomats.
If no side wants a war, suspension-for-suspension is more than 50 percent likely to happen on the peninsula. Pyongyang and Washington both expressed hopes for peace in the past, but neither had actively responded. They have become particularly cautious in sending signals to each other so as not to place themselves in a passive position in any future negotiations.
Washington and Pyongyang will gradually realize suspension-for-suspension is the only peaceful solution to the nuclear issue. Seoul’s easing of tensions with Pyongyang and the suspension-for-suspension proposal don’t mean accepting North Korea as a nuclear state. It’s an arduous process to fundamentally solve the nuclear crisis. All sides should exercise patience, enhance mutual trust, lower tensions and avoid Cold War posturing, so as to create conditions for the denuclearization of the peninsula.
Washington’s bellicose threats are globally unpopular. The more this approach engenders opposition, the greater the political risks for the US. Washington should consider other options than confrontation.