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Foreign minister claims broadened diplomatic horizon

Posted April. 03, 2017 07:18,   

Updated April. 03, 2017 07:22


The summit talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday and Friday is a historic event that will determine the fate of the Korean Peninsula as well as world order. It is the first encounter of the two strongmen from the G2 nations, and the meeting may cause a significant stir to the geopolitical map of South Korea’s national security and diplomacy that has been swaying due to the North Korean nuclear crisis and Beijing’s retaliation against Seoul for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

The core agenda of the summit is more than anything the imbalance in bilateral trade. President Trump, who believes that the U.S. can reduce America’s trade deficit only when Washington can resolve the problem with its trade with Beijing, labeled China as an exchange rate manipulator during his election campaign, and vowed that he would impose 45 percent tariffs on Chinese products. The fact he signed on Friday two executive orders, which are meant to closely examine the structure of U.S. trade deficit and to mull an increase in anti-dumping tariffs or countervailing tariffs just days before the summit.

Sanctions against North Korea are President Trump’s another bargaining chip that will put pressure on President Xi. The U.S. Treasury Department unleashed a flurry of sanctions against 11 North Korean companies and citizens who are exporting to China coal as a major source of funds for Pyongyang, for the first time since the inauguration of the Trump administration, a measure that to a significant extent is aimed at pressuring Beijing. It is the first time that Washington pointed at China’s direct link with North Korea, and most analysts say that the measure effectively alludes to the threat of secondary boycott against Beijing. However, Beijing has not changed at all from its conventional stance, under which it emphasizes concurrent halt of North Korea’s missile and nuclear provocations and South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, while demanding a peace treaty between the U.S. and North Korea.

Chances are high that China’s such behaviors are on the collision course with the Trump administration’s commitment, but we cannot completely rule out the possibility that the two sides will reach an important agreement on North Korea while excluding South Korea. We cannot also rule out the chance that President Xi make major concessionary agreement that can satisfy President Trump in the economic or national security area, and suggest Washington-Pyongyang talk as a bargaining chip. Some pundits say that the two leaders might agree to postponement of THAAD deployment in South Korea. We doubt whether the South Korean diplomatic team, which is currently lacking even its ambassador to the U.S., has the capability to preemptively sense and respond to such potential development.


In a television interview on Sunday, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se self-complimented South Korea’s diplomacy, saying, “I have never heard of the term "Korea passing." Korean diplomacy is standing in the middle of a path to broaden diplomatic horizon.” The pitiful level of Korean diplomacy has been illustrated by such self-complacency and negligence of the very person who brought about significant national disinterest by assisting the former president’s blunt pro-Beijing policy until half way through her term in office by mentioning "love calls from both Washington and Beijing."