While on a state visit to the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a summit with President Barack Obama. The leaders agreed on various points, including their stance on the North Korean nuclear issue, the reduction of greenhouse gases in response to climate change and the strengthening of military hotlines to prevent accidental military conflicts. On the Korean Peninsula issue, the two leaders reaffirmed their common understanding with the statement, “We demand the full implementation of all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.” While the U.S. and China warned North Korea against launching long-distance missiles, by referring to the U.N. resolutions, the warning held the same strength as previous agreements between the two nations, thus failing to meet the expectation that President Park Geun-hye’s diplomatic visit to China would help produce a stronger message.
The two nations failed to reconcile their differences of opinion on cyberhacking and the conflict over South China Sea territorial sovereignty. Starting in April, information pertaining to over five million former and current U.S. government employees has been hacked into. The U.S. suspects the involvement of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s cyber unit. But since China has denied involvement, stating it did not participate in or support hacking, the tension likely will not go away even after the summit ends. While currently in conflict with neighboring nations over the South China Sea, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, China is asserting itself as a hegemonic power, constructing various facilities and ensuring it will firmly uphold its “territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime rights and interests.”
The U.S. and China, which comprise the G-2, are experiencing conflict and competition with each other, while attempting to maintain a strategy for avoiding head-on collisions. While they do not trust each other, their diplomatic approach is focused on the pursuit of national interests and practical benefits, based on the understanding that the two countries need strategic trust. Two years ago, on his first presidential visit to the U.S., President Xi suggested “a new type of major power relations.” In his recent visit, he emphasized the importance of increasing trust between the two nations and resolving suspicions. Korea, being an ally to the U.S. and a strategic partner to China, needs to find ways to maximize its national interest, including a resolution to the North’s nuclear issue.
Before leaving for the U.S. to attend the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit and the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly, President Park warned, “If North Korea commits provocative acts that violate the U.N. Security Council resolutions, it will pay a clear price.”* Oct. 10 will be the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and there are growing concerns that North Korea will provoke the South by launching long distance missiles and performing its fourth nuclear test. For the U.S. and China to go beyond the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and find practical solutions, Korea must strongly flex its diplomatic muscles.
* Editor’s Note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.