Opinion / Zhu Ping

US, not China, key to Peninsula issue

By Zhu Ping (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-24 08:32

A Republic of Korea solider went on a shooting spree in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at a time when Seoul is lamenting the nearly seven-decade division of the Korean Peninsula. Making things worse, some Western media outlets have reported that China is against the Korean reunification. This, among other things, has raised Seoul's concerns ahead of the visit of President Xi Jinping to the ROK.

The truth, however, is that China has never shied away from its responsibility to maintain peace in the region and thus it is ridiculous to blame it for "blocking" the Korean reunification process.

Before accusing China, the Western media should ask one vital question: Which power benefits most if status quo is maintained on the Korean Peninsula? The answer: The US.

The dramatic shooting incident in the DMZ on Saturday night highlights the tensions prevailing in the world's most militarized border. The ROK has launched a nationwide search for the suspect, surnamed Yim, who fled with weapons after killing five of his fellow soldiers; the soldier was surrounded and captured alive on Monday after an attempt to commit suicide. And there is no evidence that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was involved in the incident. But the incident has once again reminded people of the Korean War (1950-1953), in which US-led UN forces joined the ROK and forced China to support the DPRK.

Last week, I happened to visit Panmunjom, the village where an armistice agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, establishing the DMZ and cutting the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. The DMZ, which many refer to as the last Cold War frontier, is about 250 kilometers long and 4 km wide. Technically speaking, the Korean War has not ended because no peace treaty has been signed to that effect, although the two parts of the Peninsula want national reunification.

My trip to Panmunjom was part of an international conference organized by Korean Journalists' Association, and it took us only an hour's drive (about 50 km) from Seoul to reach it. No wonder, the ROK is sensitive to any untoward incident in the DMZ. After all, Seoul is home to nearly one-fifth of the ROK's total population of about 50 million and accounts for about a quarter of its GDP.

Starting from the first check point on the road to Panmunjom, the military facilities and warning signs of "No Photos" made it clear that we were approaching the most dangerous border in the world. But the DMZ had a surprise in store: it is an idyllic landscape with huge swathes of lush green paddy fields, where farmers from both sides of the Peninsula are said to work on each other's side. The DMZ should be a dreamland for environmentalists and nature enthusiasts, and it is home to some rare species of cranes. In fact, the DMZ looks more like a nature reserve park and attracts about 1,000 tourists a day.

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