South Korea moves to boost ties with China in wake of North Korea attacks
South Korea announced that it is boosting funds related to initiatives with China. The move comes after North Korea's attack on an island last month.
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The sinking of the Cheonan, along with last month’s bombing of Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea, which killed two South Korean soldiers and two civilians, has forced the South to reevaluate their strategies in the region.Skip to next paragraph
“Under current circumstances, it seems we focus too much on military measures,” said Choi Kang, a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, speaking at a conference hosted by the East Asia Institute yesterday. The IFANS is a research organization affiliated with the Foreign Ministry. “We need to consider engagement and other peaceful means as well. This will serve as the foundation for our relationship with China and other regional powers.”
Still, on Thursday, Seoul announced that it would conduct artillery drills from Yeonpyeong Island sometime in the next few days. The drills would be similar to the ones that preceded the Yeonpyeong attack in November.
This week, China announced that a recent meeting between State Councilor Dai Bingguo and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was fruitful. Under Chinese pressure, North Korea agreed to attend emergency discussions between envoys to the six-party talks with the hope of diffusing tensions on the peninsula.
While South Korea and the United States rejected China’s proposal for the discussions, the development reveals just how integral China is to politics on the peninsula.
Former Ambassador Chung argues that it’s only a matter of time before South Korea will have to engage with China and the North in negotiations.
“I do believe that there is a huge room for diplomacy to work here,” says Chung. “And more importantly, there is no other alternative. Certainly we all have a great deal at stake to see diplomacy to work here. I won’t be surprised that if in a few months' time, North Korea comes to the negotiating table. There is no other way out.”
He is cautious, however, in his assessment of the immediate impact of South Korea's funding increase for diplomatic initiatives with China. "I welcome the increased focus on China,” Chung says. “But we have to see what that means as far as specific policies and impact. Increasing budget is only one side. And there are many, many others that the government has to do to make China be more forthcoming and working out various problems on the peninsula, including the nuclear issues.”