Fri, May 19, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Seoul seeks peace on the peninsula

By Parris Chang 張旭成

Additionally, to head off a US attack on Beijing’s ally, Jiang in August that year initiated six-party talks between China, the US, Russia, Japan, and the two Koreas in an attempt to use dialogue with Pyongyang to resolve the denuclearization problem.

The background is helpful to understanding the direction that Moon’s new government will take: His biggest challenge will be to persuade US President Donald Trump to abandon military action against Pyongyang to avoid retaliation from the North.

The fear is that in such a situation, Pyongyang could use the several thousand heavy artillery pieces positioned north of the 38th parallel and long-range rockets to destroy South Korea’s capital, Seoul, which could cause the deaths of several million South Koreans.

Given the threat, the Moon administration will stress the importance of restarting the six-party talks or some other similar international meeting, and using peace talks and dialogue to resolve the issue of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Such a position would be supported by North Korea, China and Russia, and leave the US isolated and on the back foot.

The Trump administration has declared that it has given up on former US president Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” due to years of endless dialogue and discussion having been used by Pyongyang as a delaying tactic to stave off a possible attack. Given this, it is possible that the US and South Korea will begin to gradually drift apart.

During South Korea’s presidential election campaign, Moon said that he was opposed to the deployment of the THAAD system on South Korean soil.

However, following a negative reaction from the public, Moon retracted his statement and said that due to the important nature of the decision, the matter would have to be decided by the next administration.

Although THAAD’s deployment is already under way, Trump has asked South Korea to contribute US$1 billion toward its cost.

This goes back on a promise Obama made to the South Korean government, and has caused a backlash against the US within the Moon administration and among ordinary South Koreans.

In the weeks and months ahead, if the situation on the Korean Peninsula changes, it is not impossible for the Moon administration to request that the US removes THAAD as a way of extending an olive branch to Pyongyang and pleasing Beijing.

When South Korea pursued the “Sunshine Policy,” not only has the relationship between the two Koreas changed significantly, but South Korea has also formed closer ties with China, improving bilateral trade with its neighbor, which turned China into South Korea’s most important trading partner.

The Moon administration will certainly seek to improve relations with Beijing.

However, with South Korean businesses and the public still reeling from having recently been on the receiving end of a Chinese government ban and a public boycott of all things South Korean, the question must be asked: Do South Koreans still harbor any illusions about China?

Parris Chang is professor emeritus of political science at Pennsylvania State University and president of the Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic and Strategic Studies.

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