• Wed
  • Nov 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:24am
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

Diplomatic manoeuvring makes for strange bedfellows in Northeast Asia

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 3:47am

In a mere few days, the political dynamics of Northeast Asia have seemingly shifted. President Xi Jinping's ignoring of tradition by last week visiting South Korea ahead of long-time ally North Korea unambiguously denoted frustration and displeasure. Japan and the North have made progress on their long-standing dispute over Japanese abductees, with some sanctions being dropped. In place of unquestioned practice, there is now practicality.

Given the threats and instability, this is as it should be. Xi and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, joined forces at a summit against the North's continued intransigence over its nuclear weapons programme and called for favourable conditions for a resumption of six-party talks to negotiate their destruction. The leaders also elevated bilateral relations, signing cooperation deals, billions of dollars in business agreements and vowing to conclude a free-trade pact this year. North Korea proved how out of step it is with sentiments in Beijing and Seoul by firing missiles ahead of Xi's trip.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's agenda is similarly flawed. While he has made political capital at home by forging ground on the abductees issue, shaky relations with China and South Korea have been further damaged by his cabinet's reinterpretation of the pacifist constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight overseas. Beijing and Seoul responded angrily, while Xi and Park reportedly discussed their nations joining forces to mark the 70th anniversary next year of the end of Japanese occupation with its second world war defeat. Nor should Tokyo's deal with Pyongyang be considered ground-breaking; it does not mean Japan has greater influence over the isolated state or that other facets of their fractured relationship are about to change.

China has no desire to dramatically alter its diplomatic and economic ties with North Korea; the threat of a flood of refugees pouring into Chinese territory should the nation collapse is too worrying a prospect. Exerting pressure through improved ties with the South is a more promising strategy. Such an alliance sends a signal to Abe to set aside his nationalistic ways in favour of dialogue. There is also a message for the US, a close ally of South Korea and Japan: it has to do more to temper Japanese provocations and make greater effort to get talks on North Korea back on track. Only with shared goals and by working together is there a hope of stability replacing the present uncertainty and diplomatic gloom.

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Jonathan Smith
China and South Korea being the victims of Japan's barbarous war and occupation have a common enemy Japan which under PM Shinzo Abe is very provocative on Japan's barbarous war past. Japan is driving countries like South Korea, China and Russia closer especially since all have territory disputes with Japan and have suffered enormous losses at the hands of the barbaric Japanese. Also since trade between China, Russia and South Korea are increasingly important, they will draw even closer. Japanese militancy and ill will is causing a big realignment in North East Asia and the Japanese will find themselves even more isolated. And by praying to war criminals and glorifying war at the Yasukuni War Shrine, Japan makes the situation even worse for itself. Basically the Japanese are saying they have no remorse over Japanese barbarism and have no respect for their immediate neighbours. In this context, US support for Japanese recalcitrance and military revival as part of the Pivot to Asia strategy is coming across as being the most short-sighted policy. The US is only shooting itself in the foot.
I Gandhi
China and South Korea have more in common these days than in the past. While the cold war between China and the South Korea is over, it still continues between China and the US and Japan. The US encourages madmen like Shinzo Abe that prays to war criminals at the Yasukuni War Shrine and who glorifies war to go on the war path in order to support US military aggression. Another US foreign policy failure which brought about things like 911.
caractacus
The South Korean leadership, controlled and manipulated by big corporations who are never friends of democracy, is stupid to believe the false promises of China, which is out to re-create the middle kingdom and treat all other nations as vassals and 'foreigners' as 'barbarians'.
Barbarians are those who behave like barbarians.
jayb
this editorial must be written by a white dude unfamiliar with the history of china and korea. let's not focus on 1000s of years common bound between korea and china but as early as 1900s, when Teddy Roosevelt thought Koreans were "uncivilized", as "asian negros" waiting for the blessings white christian civilization. he even made a secret pact with japan to facilitate japan to colonize korea. once into korea, japan's next move was into manchuria then china. as such, these two countries are like "lips and teeth". Univ of Wisconsin-Madison history professor James Bradley documented this part of history in his 2009 book "Imperial Cruise". in preparing for this book, Bradley spent extended amount of time living in HongKong, Japan, Korea, Philippines to complete his research. Bradley's other famous books include "The Fly Boys", "Flags of Our Fathers". check 'em out.

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