China continues its peace offensive


Young-joon / Reuters

The purpose of the meeting between Park Jin, Wang Yi and Yoko Kamikawa was to resume after the pandemic a regular dialog in this format, which dates back to 2007. The ministers also discussed the prospects of holding a trilateral summit of heads of state, which have not been held since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The final communiqué said that the ministers advocated cooperation for peace and prosperity in the region, as well as the development of contacts between the three countries in the fields of humanitarian exchanges, science, technology, sustainable development, health, economic cooperation, trade and security.

The two sides also exchanged views on the DPRK’s launch of the Chollima-1 rocket carrying the Malligyong-1 reconnaissance satellite on Nov. 21. Tokyo and Seoul believe it was done with the help of Russia. The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea condemned the launch. China did not. Japan’s foreign minister said efforts are needed to ensure the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Importantly, the ministers reaffirmed the agreed position that peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula are the common interests not only of South Korea, China and Japan, but also of the entire world, and agreed to continue communicating at various levels to resolve the DPRK nuclear issue.

The Republic of Korea’s foreign minister called North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and the launch of a reconnaissance satellite «and other provocative ballistic missile launches» a major threat to the peace and security of the region. This is the standard interpretation of the situation according to the US and its allies. As if they themselves are not a «threat to peace» with their nuclear arsenals.

The Japanese minister also voiced Tokyo’s position on the Middle East and Ukraine, welcoming the achievement of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip and emphasizing the intention of the Japanese authorities to continue providing assistance to Kiev and imposing sanctions against Moscow. The Chinese minister listened to all this. China is not against the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but it is ultimately rejected by the U.S. and its allies in the region, which led to the development of North Korea’s nuclear missile program. The Gaza truce is opposed only by radicals in Israel and the U.S., but certainly not by China.

In Japan and the Republic of Korea, observers believe that China’s fears of a sharp rapprochement between North Korea and Russia give additional room for negotiations in the format of China-Japan-South Korea. They say that Beijing does not want to cede the palm of superiority in influencing Pyongyang. Well, let them think so. In fact, there is no competition between Russia and China. Besides, the Chinese have been so successful in circumventing sanctions and supporting North Korea that Russia is a long way from them. And Beijing will not betray its North Korean ally, for whom a million Chinese volunteers once fought.

The Russian media emphasize that the foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan during the talks in Busan failed to agree on a date for the next trilateral summit of the leaders of the three countries. But such a goal was not set. All details of the summit will be agreed upon in a working order through diplomatic channels. Although the ministers of the three countries confirmed their readiness to hold the summit «in the shortest possible mutually convenient time». Most likely it will be the beginning of next year.

Much more importantly, there is a fundamental readiness to hold it. After all, a year ago, during the period of aggravation around Taiwan, this was out of the question, as Japan was quite actively supporting Taipei and its American allies in this dispute over the independence of the island, which is legally part of the PRC. Now, with the coming détente between the PRC and the US and the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to America, such a meeting has become possible. All of this together can be credited to Chinese diplomacy, which has been flexible where necessary. Disagreements do not prevent the search for compromise.

The way this is done can be seen from the fact that before the trilateral meeting, the Chinese minister met with his Japanese counterpart. And he put forward basic conditions for the continuation of the «reset» of relations. Here they are.

First of all, the parties need to ensure that they have a proper understanding of each other. It is that Beijing and Tokyo are partners, not a threat, and they should adhere to the peaceful development of dialog, the Chinese Foreign Minister emphasized. In addition, China and Japan should carefully consider and respect mutual concerns on a number of issues. For example, Tokyo should fulfill its commitments on the Taiwan issue and refrain from interfering in China’s internal affairs, Wang Yi noted.

Finally, Beijing and Tokyo should, by strengthening cooperation, jointly oppose anti-globalization and protectionism. It is also important to promote stability and smooth functioning of production and logistics chains.

In other words, no mutual «hit-and-runs», taking into account «mutual concerns», no support for Taiwanese separatism, and no economic sanctions and protectionism. Otherwise, one should not expect further normalization, and the trilateral summit will be agreed upon for an indefinitely long time.