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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 18)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:13 November 18, 2021

Still poles apart
Biden, Xi fail to narrow differences on thorny issues

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping failed to narrow their differences on major thorny issues including Taiwan during their first virtual summit Monday. They only agreed, in principle, on the need to avoid further conflicts and cooperate for regional stability. They stopped short of defusing the escalating rivalry between the two countries although the summit drew keen attention as it came amid growing fears about the possible advent of a new Cold War.

The two leaders engaged in a hectic debate over a series of contentious issues involving diplomacy, security, human rights and trade during the summit which lasted for 194 minutes. Though they acknowledged the need to ease tensions and move toward cooperation, they didn't budge an inch from their firm stances over most of the pending issues.

Regarding Taiwan, Biden reaffirmed the "One China" policy as sought by Xi. Yet he made it clear that the U.S. strongly opposes any unilateral military action that will undermine stability in the East China Sea area. In response, Xi warned that China would have to take "decisive measures" if "pro-Taiwan independence" forces crossed a "red line." He even used harsh words to warn Biden that encouraging Taiwanese independence would be "playing with fire."

Xi's remarks indicated China may take military action to "unify" the island with the mainland depending on Taiwan's moves. Any military conflict involving Taiwan could turn East Asia into a battlefield. To prevent this from happening, the two nations should make concerted efforts together with the international community. Biden also raised the issue of human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong while underlining the need to protect U.S. workers and industries from China's unfair trade practices. On the other hand, Xi called on the U.S. to stop attacking Chinese companies under the excuse of national security.

As expected, the two sides failed to issue a joint statement and engaged in a tug-of-war on a litany of matters. Yet it is meaningful for Biden and Xi to have dialogue, which could help defuse bilateral tensions. Both leaders agreed to cooperate on energy and climate change. Biden said the U.S. had no intention of wrangling with China, while Xi called for the two nations to make mutual efforts to avoid friction. We urge the two leaders to jointly draw up measures to avert further conflict and maintain stable relations through continued dialogue.

The two leaders purportedly discussed the issue of North Korea, though it was not a key agenda item. The Moon Jae-in administration should try hard to solicit cooperation from the two nations with the goal of promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Their help is all the more necessary since Moon has been seeking to adopt a formal declaration to end the Korean War. He should play a more active role of helping restart stalled denuclearization talks between North Korea and the U.S. as well as inter-Korean dialogue.

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