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China, Stop Defending N. Korea

Posted May. 19, 2010 03:01,   


Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Zhang Xinsheng Monday told Chung Sye-kyun, the chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, “Looking at data open to the public so far, no evidence seems to suggest the culprit behind (the Cheonan sinking),” adding, “We should refrain from making a hasty conclusion before decisive evidence comes out.” Zhang added, “Subjective assumptions or predictions should be avoided in the investigation.” Coming three days before the scheduled announcement of the Cheonan probe results, the diplomat’s comments have aroused suspicion that he has certain intentions.

Zhang apparently made the comment of “no evidence” intentionally. A joint civil and military investigation team along with foreign experts from the U.S., Britain, Australia and Sweden has investigated the sinking. Zhang kept making inappropriate comments, saying, “Improper handling of the Cheonan incident will hinder the efforts to resume the six-party nuclear talks,” adding, “The Cheonan incident should be properly dealt with from a long-term perspective.” He gave the impression that China is busy defending North Korea instead of helping obtain a full accounting of the incident and holding the perpetrator accountable.

Beijing apparently seeks to treat Seoul and Pyongyang equally by separating the Cheonan incident from the six-party talks. This runs counter to the stance of South Korea and the U.S. that the resolution of the incident comes first before the resumption of the dialogue. If China sticks to its position, it is unlikely to actively cooperate in punishing North Korea through the U.N. Security Council.

Speaking to Democratic Party lawmakers, Zhang stressed the three principles of China’s policy toward the Korean Peninsula: maintaining peace and stability, denuclearization, and resolving problems through dialogue and negotiation. It is no exaggeration to say, however, that the North could have continued its brinksmanship tactics against the international community and developed nuclear weapons on the back of Chinese support and protection. Beijing has not shown a commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through action. Instead, it is acting like a guardian to a wayward child, namely North Korea.

Given the Chinese attitude, the top priority of Beijing’s Korean Peninsula policy is apparently to maintain the pro-China government in the North. The North is said to continue making provocations that threaten world peace because it is well aware of China’s policy. Considering its frequent reference to the six-party talks before the announcement of the Cheonan probe results, China apparently has the same attitude in dealing with the sinking as it does to the denuclearization of the North. If Beijing continues to defend Pyongyang even after the investigation results are released, it will invite criticism for being irresponsible as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.