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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 8)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:00 September 08, 2023

China must address the nuclear threat

In the Asean Plus Three Summit and the East Asia Summit (EAS) on Thursday, President Yoon Suk Yeol alerted the leaders of the countries on the deepening security threats in the region from North Korean nuclear missiles and appealed for their cooperation in addressing the danger. Yoon also demanded cooperation from China — a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and former chair country of the Six-Party Talks — in addressing the mounting security threat from North Korea.

In the EAS meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Yoon called North Korea's nuclear and missile development an "existential threat to all participating countries in the summit," as the missiles can reach them. He underscored the need for UN member countries to faithfully abide by a series of UN resolutions against the recalcitrant state. Targeting the representatives of China and Russia, which endorsed those resolutions, the president stressed the heavy responsibility of Security Council members in resolving the issue.

In Wednesday's Asean Plus Three summit attended by Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang on behalf of President Xi Jinping, President Yoon emphasized the need for the international community to unite and jointly deal with the nuclear threat. The remarks the president made before the Chinese prime minister were deemed a direct demand to Beijing. In a separate meeting with the prime minister, Yoon demanded a constructive role from China on the matter.

Yoon's demand for China's cooperation reflects his confidence, built up from the first exclusive tripartite summit at Camp David. Korea-China relations have been bumpy until recently. The deepening anti-Chinese sentiment among Koreans after Beijing's economic and cultural retaliation for the deployment of the U.S. Thaad antimissile system in Korea in 2016 only helped worsen their bilateral relations. But after the replacement of hard-line Foreign Minister Qin Gang — the initiator of China's "wolf warrior diplomacy" — with somewhat dovish Wang Yi in July, the atmosphere began to change. In fact, bilateral relations are gradually recovering after Beijing last month lifted the ban on group tours to Korea after more than six years. Though Chinese tourism to Korea has not fully recovered yet, it could help boost the Korean economy, as seen by a noticeable increase in the revenues of Korean clinics of plastic surgery.

China cannot gain much from getting excessively close to Russia, which waged war on Ukraine, or from siding with North Korea, which continues playing with its coveted nuclear weapons. As the second largest economy and the third strongest military power, China must act in a way befitting of its stature now. Otherwise, it can never be respected by the rest of the world.

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