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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 10)

All News 07:04 June 10, 2019

Diplomatic impasse
Worsening US-China conflict presents grave challenges for Seoul

Tension is growing between the U.S and China following news reports that the Trump administration is challenging Beijing's one-China policy.

According to the latest news reports, the U.S. Department of Defense categorized Taiwan as a "country" in its "Indo-Pacific Strategy Report" released last week. It is feared that the wording could signal Washington's plan to abandon its longtime adherence to the one-China policy. The report named Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand and Mongolia, as countries that "contribute to U.S. missions around the world" and referred to them as "reliable capable and natural partners."

Another sign of the grave U.S.-China situation can be seen in their differences over reports that the U.S. plans to sell weapons worth $2 billion to Taiwan, including tanks.

Beijing has expressed serious concerns over this issue.

"China firmly, consistently and unequivocally opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said during a regular press conference at the ministry June 6. "We urge the U.S. to realize fully the high degree of sensitivity and severe impact of this issue, and honor its commitment to the one-China principle and the three China-U.S. joint communiques. It needs to stop selling arms to or having military ties with Taiwan."

The arms sales to Taiwan and the Trump administration's confronting of the one-China policy come amid a worsening situation between the two countries over a range of trade issues. The conflict between the world's two biggest superpowers is making surrounding countries and allies nervous, with Korea particularly vulnerable to the growing tension between Washington and Beijing. It is feared that U.S.-China relations will suffer even further because Washington has called Taiwan a country for the first time in decades in one of its official reports. The U.S. normalized relations with China in 1979.

The U.S.-China trade row has put Seoul in a very difficult position, particularly regarding the Trump administration's ban on Huawei. Last month, President Trump issued an executive order that allowed the federal government to restrict U.S. companies from using foreign telecommunications equipment that poses an "unacceptable risk to the security of the U.S." This was largely seen as targeting the Chinese tech giant, which was added to a trade blacklist by the U.S. Department of Commerce earlier last month.

It is disturbing that both China and the U.S. are reportedly stepping up pressure on Seoul to take sides in the bilateral trade dispute.

As the U.S-China row continues to worsen it is high time for Seoul to prepare strategies to deal with not just Washington's Huawei boycott, but also prepare to safeguard Korea's interests amid the disputes that could have a sweeping impact on regional security.

President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping should do their best to mend their frayed ties during the upcoming G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, later this month.

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