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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Dec. 14)

All Headlines 06:59 December 14, 2017

Reduced expectations
Moon-Xi summit unlikely to find a breakthrough in NK crisis, THAAD dispute

President Moon Jae-in holds summit talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday. The talks, the third of their kind between the two, are most likely to end up being held the sake of talks.

Korean officials said there would be no joint statement after the Moon-Xi meeting. Nor will they face the media together, a common way for leaders to explain their agreements and disagreements.

It is not rare for leaders to do without such events to wrap up their discussions, but given the fact that many summit topics are discussed by diplomats beforehand, the two sides must have agreed to disagree on key issues.

In other words, we must lower expectations that the summit will bring the two countries closer in dealing with thorny issues like stopping North Korea's nuclear and missile belligerence and the dispute over a US missile defense system deployed in South Korea.

China, North Korea's sole remaining Cold War-era ally and largest economic benefactor, has been avoiding responsibility for the rogue regime's brazen pursuit of nuclear and missile ambitions.

There has been no change in Beijing's lukewarm position on putting up sanctions on the North, even after its leader Kim Jong-un declared the "completion of a state nuclear force" through the test-firing of a new intercontinental ballistic missile two weeks ago.

So President Moon may have to think about how he would respond to Xi if the Chinese president reiterated what he and his predecessors had been saying for long years: China opposes nuclear arms on the Korean Peninsula but any security issue should be resolved by peaceful means, not sanctions.

The worst response will be concurring with him, only agreeing to continue to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis. The best one will be following the footsteps of US President Donald Trump, who already picked up the phone after the latest missile provocation by the North and called on Xi to cut off the supply of oil to North Korea.

Xi is also expected to maintain his position on another key issue -- the deployment in South Korea of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System. What his foreign minister, Wang Yi, and the state-controlled media have said recently -- even after the two sides agreed to bury the hatchet on Oct. 31 -- give convincing clues as to the Chinese position.

The Chinese want the Seoul government to make a firmer commitment to what it has been demanding -- the so-called "three nos": no additional THAAD deployment, no participation in the US missile defense system and no pursuit of tripartite military alliance with the US and Japan.

It is against this backdrop that the Beijing government -- despite the Oct. 31 agreement and the subsequent meeting between Moon and Xi in Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum -- has only partially lifted its ban on group tours to South Korea and is continuing many of its acts of economic retaliation against Korean firms.

One can easily see that China's vehement opposition to THAAD and insistence on the "three nos" target US more than South Korea. Trying to make a smaller neighbor a scapegoat in its hegemonic rivalry with the US will only deepen suspicions of countries in the region.

In an interview with CCTV, the Chinese state television, Moon said that the top priority of his visit to China was placed on "recovering mutual trust." It seems that he won't be able to attain his goal this time.

That should not mean, however, he should give in to every demand of Xi. As Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said, the key pillar of South Korea's diplomatic efforts is solid alliance with the US. That cannot be compromised by any other country, not least China, all the more so in view of the North Korea crisis.
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