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[Editorial] China`s Role in the `Grand Bargain`

Posted October. 10, 2009 07:50,   


President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in their summit yesterday agreed on solid collaboration to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff. Hatoyama backed President Lee’s “grand bargain” proposal as the “proper and right solution.” Both leaders also stressed the need for a fundamental and comprehensive solution to the nuclear issue to prevent Pyongyang from repeating its ill-advised practices of the past. The summit could be the catalyst for the grand bargain proposal to get official recognition by members of the six-party talks.

Hatoyama picked South Korea for his first summit after his inauguration. President Lee built a friendship with him by treating Hatoyama as Japan’s next leader in June, when Hatoyama visited Seoul as chairman of the Democratic Party of Japan. They both showed strong mutual understanding and deep trust again in yesterday’s joint news conference. Considering that friendship between leaders plays a critical role in improving bilateral relations, Seoul and Tokyo have the best opportunity to get closer to each other than at any other time in modern history.

Yesterday’s summit will be linked to the South Korea-China-Japan summit opening in Beijing today. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pyongyang last week for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and is expected to give a detailed explanation on Kim’s hint at a conditional return to the six-party talks. The trilateral summit in Beijing is a chance for the three nations to announce a coordinated response to Kim’s comment.

Pyongyang will also pay keen attention to the trilateral summit. If the three Northeast Asian neighbors unanimously support President Lee’s grand bargain proposal and urge Pyongyang to return to the six-way talks, Kim will come under heavy pressure. Since Beijing has emphasized a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, China has no reason to object to the grand bargain proposal, which presses a fundamental and comprehensive solution to the nuclear standoff. Should Beijing ignore principle and follows Pyongyang’s plan on a conditional return to the six-way talks, it could cause confusion in the international community in determining sanctions on Pyongyang. The trilateral summit is important because it will also affect the other parties to the six-way talks, including the U.S. and Russia.

Korea and Japan have a number of pending issues that require cooperation for resolution, including global warming. As Hatoyama has repeatedly emphasized, Japan must face its past history objectively. The most pressing and important task, however, is the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear program. Tokyo’s collaboration with Seoul on the matter is a litmus test for judging Hatoyama’s ushering in of a new era in bilateral relations. President Lee and Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama must join forces in persuading China to take part in the grand bargain proposal.