Following the recent US-China summit, China has taken unexpected measures against North Korea, including returning North Korean coal, canceling flights to Pyongyang, and suspending tourism to the country.
President Trump has hinted at a deal between Washington and Beijing, tweeting, “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!”
It is welcome news that the US and China, the world’s two great powers, have started to cooperate in solving the North Korean nuclear problem.
South Korea relegated to the sidelines
However, it is regrettable that South Korea, perhaps the greatest stakeholder in the North Korea issue, has been somewhat excluded from the talks. The current environment draws an uneasy parallel with the time of liberation, when the fate of the Korean peninsula was decided by the US and the Soviet Union.
Of course, we should first blame ourselves for being unable to deal with the North Korean nuclear problem. South Korea has been inconsistent in its North Korea policy, as incoming governments have sought to appeal to voters. An effective North Korea policy would require decades of consistency to make a significant impact. Unfortunately, political infighting in South Korea has made it largely impossible for the nation to put forward a consistent non-partisan effort.
In the end, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have led to a situation where the great powers have taken the lead in resolving the problem. It remains unclear how far would the US and China will cooperate.
We should not allow the fate of the Korean Peninsula to be determined solely by outside forces. It is important for South Korea to join in the talks between the US and China.
The first priority for South Korea’s new incoming government will be to broker three-party talks between the US, China and South Korea. The controversy surrounding the deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) has now become less important. We should strive to re-engage in the discussion on the future of North Korea to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula.
*Views expressed in Guest Columns do not necessarily reflect those of Daily NK.