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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 14)

All News 07:06 November 14, 2022

Call for China's active role
Biden wants Xi to restrain N.K. nuclear ambitions

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to ask his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to play an active role in restraining North Korea's nuclear ambitions. How the Chinese leader will react to the U.S. move is drawing keen attention.

Jake Sullivan, national security adviser in the U.S. administration, said that Biden will tell Xi during their meeting scheduled for Monday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, that North Korea's escalating military threats risk increasing the U.S. military presence in the region. He made the remarks Saturday aboard Air Force One, before the U.S. delegation arrived in Cambodia to attend a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Sullivan made it clear that North Korea is a threat to the U.S., South Korea and Japan and to peace and stability throughout the entire region. "If North Korea goes down this road, it will simply mean further enhanced American military and security presence in the region," he said. Then he called on China to play a constructive role in restraining the North's "worst tendencies."

We welcome the U.S. move. China, still the main ally of North Korea, can exert influence on the Kim Jong-un regime. As Sullivan pointed out, it is up to China to choose to persuade Pyongyang out of making further provocations, including ICBM and nuclear tests.

Now the question is whether Xi can accommodate Biden's call for keeping the North's missile and nuclear program in check. The idea of a further U.S. military buildup in East Asia is certainly anathema to China. It sounds like an ultimatum that could aggravate the great power rivalry between the two countries. Imagine what would happen if Xi rejects Biden's request and the U.S. expands its military and security presence in the region.

It is necessary for both sides to recognize the North's incessant launches of ICBMs and other ballistic missiles as a common threat to regional peace and stability. It is also important to build a consensus that Washington and Beijing should work together to prevent Pyongyang from conducting its seventh nuclear test. Most of all, the U.S. and China must restore mutual trust ― at least in their common goal of nuclear nonproliferation on the Korean Peninsula.

The Biden administration should not use the North Korea issue to reinforce its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region in its bid to contain China. South Korea is seeking to enhance the U.S.' extended deterrence against the North's nuclear threats. Washington is also committing to deploy more strategic assets to the South. However, a further increase in the U.S. military presence in the region could be seen as a move to defend Taiwan and counter China's rising global influence.

South Korea does not want to be dragged into the China-U.S. confrontation. Instead, we would like to see the U.S. and China refrain from their strategic competition and find common ground for cooperation in important issues, particularly nuclear nonproliferation. Now they face a crucial test ― whether they can collaborate in stopping North Korea from advancing its nuclear weapons capabilities.


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