South Korean President Moon Jae-in will have a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday. The two leaders will discuss how to address tension on the Korean Peninsula heightened by North Korea’s provocations before the trilateral summit among South Korea, Japan, and China to be held in Chengdu on Tuesday. North Korea has taken steps to transition to a “new path” by announcing on Sunday that an expanded meeting of its ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission was held.
South Korea and China are facing an important task of stabilizing Northeast Asia by preventing North Korea from provocations and bringing the country to a negotiation table. Meanwhile, North Korea will make a decision on the “Christmas gift” that it has been threatening against the U.S. at a plenary meeting of the commission either on Monday or Tuesday. Although Pyongyang rejected a proposal for a meeting by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, it is still trying to wait and see the next moves by the U.S. and China.
Washington is being wary of intense provocations by Pyongyang and assessing various response measures. It is unlikely to engage in super-hardline responses, such as military options, at the moment, but such options are not excluded. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley said that the U.S. is “prepared for whatever” from North Korea. The U.S.’ priority is putting pressure on North Korea with sanctions via the efforts of the international community. This is why U.S. President Donald Trump made a call to President Xi on Friday to discuss the North Korea issues.
South Korea will lose the most in case of the collapse of the denuclearization talks with North Korea, but China is practically in the same boat. China is the only country that has an influence on North Korea as a strong supporter of the country as well as a firm neighboring powerhouse. However, China at the moment is neglecting North Korea’s out-of-control behaviors. President Xi only emphasized “political solution” during his phone conversation with President Trump. The deadline to repatriate overseas North Korean workers was reached on Sunday according to the UN sanctions, the return of North Korean workers along the border between China and North Korea is yet to be seen. These circumstances are encouraging North Korea furthermore to raise the level of its provocations.
China’s power lies in informal diplomacy. Despite China’s denial of its influence on North Korea, the superpower was successful at bringing North Korea back to negotiations tables with immense under-the-table pressure on North Korea and joining the efforts to enforce sanctions when the six-party talks were struggling and the Korean Peninsula found itself in a crisis in 2017. China should stop siding with North Korea, which is attempting to disturb stability and peace in Northeast Asia. It should warn against North Korea by reminding how fearful sanctions and pressure can be and how provocations will lead to eventual self-destruction. Neglecting the current situations will put the blame on China as well as an accomplice.