Xi on potential landmark ROK visit

Updated: 2014-07-03 08:17

By Kim Jin-Young (China Daily)

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The two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Republic of Korea is significant not least because he is visiting the ROK before the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as has been the established practice. Accordingly, many expect his visit to yield greater results.

What are the key issues that Xi and ROK President Park Geun-hye are likely to discuss?

The first subject that comes to most people's mind is the DPRK nuclear issue. And the first step toward resolving the issue is to make it clear to the DPRK that it must abandon its nuclear program for the stability of the Korean Peninsula. The ROK and the DPRK signed "the Joint Declaration of Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" in 1991. As a result, the ROK asked the US army to remove all its nuclear weapons from its territory. But instead of abandoning its nuclear program, the DPRK "scrapped" the agreement and conducted three nuclear tests. So the ROK is likely to ask China, which supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, to put more pressure on the DPRK to give up its nuclear program once and for all.

The second step is to set in motion the negotiation process to re-open the Six-Party Talks. The Park administration, along with the US, has been demanding that the DPRK demonstrate its intention to start the Six-Party Talks by abandoning its nuclear program. But the DPRK has been sending signals that sooner or later it would carry out its fourth nuclear test.

Therefore, the Chinese and ROK leaders have to find a way out of this stalemate. If China puts pressure on the DPRK to abandon its nuclear program, the ROK could ask the US to lower the hurdle for the re-entry of DPRK to the bargaining table.

Park's initiative of the "Trust Process of the Korean Peninsula" (or Trustpolitik"), well received at the beginning, has been sluggish and not yielded much result. But if Xi and Park come up with concrete measures to break the deadlock over the DPRK, the "Trustpolitik" could get re-activated.

Another important issue is the ROK's balancing act between China and the US. The US' prime concern in Asia is China. The "pivot to Asia" policy of the US is aimed at containing rising powers like China. Washington has been trying to build a US-ROK-Japan triple alliance and expressed concerns over the possibility of Seoul's participation in the Beijing-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The ROK is thus caught between its principal political ally, the US, and its principal trading partner, China. Xi's visit to the ROK has the potential of improving political ties between Beijing and Seoul as well, although if that happens, the ROK will find itself balancing between the US and China more often than before.

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