Monday, November 29, 2010

China proposes talks to defuse tensions of Yŏnpyŏng-do incident

With South Koreans angry over their government's lack of a tough response to North Korea shelling Yŏnpyŏng-do Island [Yeonpyeong] and killing four people, the US and South Korea conducting joint naval drills in the Yellow Sea not far from where North Korea has unilaterally declared ROK-controlled waters south of the de facto border as inviolably their own, there are a lot of nervous folks out there worried that things can escalate.

One of them is China, which responded to its client state's murderous attack on its major trading partner by telling its major trading partner to "calm down." (They like saying that whenever North Koreans kill South Koreans, such as after the Ch'ŏnan incident.)

Anyway, China has now proposed emergency talks on this latest incident, but Seoul and its allies are skeptical.

From Reuters:
China called for emergency talks on resolving a crisis on the Korean peninsula on Sunday, and Seoul and Tokyo said they would study the proposal, as the U.S. and South Korean militaries started a massive drill.

Beijing's move to bring the two Koreas to the negotiating table comes after global pressure on China to take a more responsible role in the standoff and try to rein in ally Pyongyang.

China made clear that the talks would not amount to a resumption of six-party disarmament discussions which North Korea walked out of two years ago and declared dead. South Korea said it would carefully consider China's suggestion.
It's hard to know what China's intent is because it's not entirely clear what in North Korea is driving this. While North Korea is a client state and buffer zone for China, without whom the Pyongyang regime would have collapsed long ago, it may very well be the case that North Korea has gone so far off the reservation that Beijing is in no position to rein in North Korea at all.

And as loath as they are to being told what to do about North Korea, they are even more loath to admit they can't do anything.

But the US has few options other making appeals to China, which is what they're doing (mixed in with some biting criticism as well). From the Los Angeles Times:
With tensions rising on the Korean peninsula, several leading U.S. lawmakers Sunday called on China to play a more constructive role in restraining North Korea.

"Unfortunately, China is not behaving as a responsible world power," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"They could bring the North Korean economy to its knees if they wanted to. And I cannot believe that the Chinese should, in a mature fashion, not find it in their interest to restrain North Korea. So far, they are not."

Chinese officials Sunday called for an emergency resumption of the so-called six-party talks involving North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

China made the request as the United States and South Korea began previously planned military exercises in the seas around the Korean peninsula.

North Korea — which last week shelled a South Korean island, killing four — has condemned the maneuvers, which involve a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle group led by the nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called the Chinese proposal for renewed diplomatic talks a "good first step."
Remember back in the 1990s, when there were heated annual battles in Washington over whether to renew for one more year China's "Most-Favored Nation" trading status, and those who wanted to give Beijing a permanent free ride insisted that this would lead to an open relationship where the PRC could become a more cooperative partner of the US? How's that working out for us?

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