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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 17)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:08 November 17, 2022

China should do more
Beijing urged to help check North Korea's nuclear program

President Yoon Suk-yeol had a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Tuesday. The meeting was the first face-to-face event since Yoon took office in May. It was also the first of its kind since December 2019 when Yoon's predecessor Moon Jae-in met Xi. It was symbolic, but significant in that it came amid a growing need to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The two leaders agreed to develop bilateral relations further based on mutual respect and reciprocity, according to the presidential office. They also agreed to have regular meetings of high-level officials to discuss diverse challenges facing the two countries such as the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, economic slowdown and climate change.

Also encouragingly, they agreed on the need to wrap up the second stage of negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two countries quickly. Yoon and Xi also agreed to expedite cultural and people-to-people exchanges. This means personnel exchanges between the two countries, which have almost stopped due to COVID-19, will resume in full swing. We expect the results of the summit will pave the way for mature and better relations.

Despite such positive aspects, however, the two leaders failed to reach a consensus on some grave issues. They met for only 25 minutes despite the symbolic meaning that it was the first in-person meeting taking place marking the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Yoon called on China to play a more active and constructive role in restraining North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Yet, Xi refused to give a clear answer, only maintaining a lukewarm attitude toward the issue. Instead of clearly mentioning China's role in finding a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue, Xi used periphrases such as "peace safeguard." He expressed hope for the two Koreas to mend their frayed ties.

Regarding the "audacious" initiative Yoon has proposed to the North, Xi said China will cooperate should North Korea respond positively. This was taken to mean here that Beijing will not play a proactive role in preventing Pyongyang from making missile and nuclear threats.

The security situation in Northeast Asia as well as on the Korean Peninsula has turned precarious due to North Korea's repeated military provocations. Given this, it is inappropriate for China to side with the North. It is not a responsible attitude as a nation which can wield a huge influence on the North.

It is time for China to play a more proactive role in deterring North Korea from making further military provocations. The less China is willing to do regarding North Korea, the more the U.S. will try to strengthen its extended deterrence against the North's nuclear threats. China should join efforts to prevent the North from carrying out its seventh nuclear test. Xi must keep in mind that its commitment to nuclear nonproliferation is also for the sake of China's national interests.
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