China advocates dialogue as way to secure once-and-for-all solution to problems that have long plagued Northeast Asia
Following the recent exchanges of fire between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, some countries, such as the United States, have demanded China condemn the DPRK for its "provocative activities" to show its status as a responsible power and ensure similar incidents don't happen again.
Some international media have echoed this tone, saying China's "long-standing partial defense" of the DPRK has encouraged Pyongyang's provocations. They have gone even farther and called into question Beijing's ongoing diplomatic efforts aimed at easing the tension on the Korean Peninsula. China's intensified "shuttle diplomacy" and its calls for emergency talks among the heads of the Six-Party Talks delegations have been described by some as public relations.
These unfair comments have compromised China's image and misled international opinion, they could also sabotage international efforts toward easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and any settlement of the issue.
This is not the first time that China has received criticism for the strained situation on the Peninsula. China came under huge pressure to be tougher toward Pyongyang after the sinking of the ROK navy vessel Cheonan.
Although as host of the Six-Party Talks, China has also received some positive comments from the parties concerned for its "unique and constructive role" anytime the multilateral talks have achieved some progress.
China has been making great efforts over the past years to broker the Six-Party Talks, which also involve the US, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas, in a bid to ease tensions. Beijing is conscious that any strategic misjudgment from any party has the potential to plunge the whole region into a catastrophe.
Northeast Asia is the only region in the world that still carries the stamp of the Cold War. It is also a region where the interests of many countries converge. As a responsible power, China first takes into consideration the interests of the whole region rather than individual nations. Some long-unresolved issues in the region have proven to be the largest threat to regional stability, development and prosperity.
How to maintain regional peace and stability must be a top concern of all parties in the region, including China, as it serves all parties' fundamental interests.
So what responsibilities should China undertake as a responsible player in the region?
China is trying to seek a once-and-for-all solution to related problems that have long plagued the region in a bid to maintain lasting peace and security. Some thorny issues in Northeast Asia, from the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula to the decades-long feud between the two Koreas and Pyongyang's stalled ties with Washington and Tokyo, are all the result of historical disputes and today's games-playing among big countries. Against this backdrop, the threat to use force will only deepen long-established feuds and aggravate the situation.
China has long advocated dialogue as the best way to enhance mutual trust among the involved parties in the region. As a responsible player, China endures the pressure of misled international opinion. Many times in the past, China has managed to withstand outside misgivings and dissatisfactions at very difficult times and insisted on mediation as a way to restore the stalled six-way talks.
As a responsible player, China refrains from doing anything beyond its capacity or range of authorization. Every country is obliged to undertake its responsibilities for the peace and stability of the region where it is located. However, implementing such obligations should be in compliance with the basic norms of international relations. China does not possess absolute influence over the DPRK, a sovereign state, as some Western countries have claimed. It should not join the international front aimed at unilaterally exerting pressures on Pyongyang.
By complaining of China's "mild stance" toward the DRPK, some media have in fact exposed their unequivocal attempt to sow discord between China and the DPRK and the ROK.
China's unique influence in the region lies in its success in helping promote unblocked and candid communication among the parties concerned. China's recent calls for an emergency consultation among the heads of the Six-Party Talks delegations have received explicit support from Russia. Voices have being growing that the latest tension on the Korean Peninsula should be finally eased through the resumption of the multilateral talks. As a responsible nation and a key player, China will continue to work hard and play its unique and constructive role in an objective manner in the region.
The author is a researcher with the China Institute of International Studies.