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Collaborative efforts urged to ease tensions

By YANG HAN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-30 09:32
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa pose for a photo prior to the 10th trilateral foreign ministers' meeting in Busan, ROK, Nov 26, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Conditions need to be created for ROK, DPRK to resume dialogue, experts say

Collaborative efforts are needed to cool tensions between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea while creating conditions to resume dialogue, experts say.

Noting that China recently emphasized the importance of de-escalation and creating conditions conducive to the resumption of dialogue on the Korean Peninsula, Lakhvinder Singh, director of the peace program at Seoul-based think tank The Asia Institute, said the emphasis reflects "a genuine diplomatic approach aimed at preventing further tensions and fostering an environment where meaningful discussions can take place".

Urgent collaborative efforts among regional players are necessary as they can offer a more comprehensive and effective approach to address the complexities of the situation, Singh told China Daily.

During the China-Japan-ROK trilateral foreign ministers' meeting in the ROK's port city of Busan on Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the three countries need to act as relief valves in addressing hot spot issues. Continued tensions on the peninsula do not serve the interest of any side, said Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

"It is imperative to cool down the situation, create conditions needed to resume dialogue and adopt meaningful action," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday, in response to a question regarding the meeting's outcome.

Expressing deep concerns over the escalating tensions at the United Nations Security Council on Monday, Geng Shuang, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, also said that dialogue and negotiations are the only way forward to resolve the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and that China is committed to upholding peace, stability and denuclearization of the peninsula.

The DPRK announced on Nov 23 its decision to immediately restore all military measures halted under an inter-Korean military agreement. This came after the ROK made a prompt decision to partially suspend the accord designed to reduce the possibility of an armed conflict along the Military Demarcation Line, in protest against the DPRK's launch of a reconnaissance satellite late on Nov 22.

According to Xinhua News Agency, citing the official Korean Central News Agency, the DPRK said its reconnaissance satellite launch is "a legitimate and just exercise of its right to self-defense".

The Malligyong-1 satellite will formally start its mission on Dec 1.

'Downward spiral'

"Suspension of the military accord is not going to help (cool tensions), but the inter-Korean relations have been on a downward spiral way before the suspension," said Kim Jaechun, an international relations professor at Sogang University in Seoul.

But Kim believes that the suspension is not going to escalate into a great flare-up as both sides understand that they have enough deterrent capabilities, and major powers like China and the United States also do not want the crisis to worsen.

"The 2018 agreement was doomed to fail from the beginning as there was no genuine meeting of minds between the two Koreas," said Ryu Yong-wook, assistant professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore.

Now that the agreement is effectively nullified, tensions could increase on the Korean Peninsula, but this is little more than "life as usual", Ryu told China Daily.

He added that the DPRK will engage in provocative behavior in accordance with its strategic interests, and the ROK will respond in cooperation with the US and Japan.

"The suspension of the military accord introduces a notable element of uncertainty in the region," said Singh from The Asia Institute, noting that the lack of clear communication and mutual understanding between the ROK and the DPRK will lead to a delicate and unpredictable situation, further complicating the geopolitical landscape of Asia.

Despite the role that the international community can play in the Korean Peninsula, Singh said it must be acknowledged that the success of efforts to resume inter-Korean dialogue depends on the willingness of both Seoul and Pyongyang.

"They must exercise restraint and engage in confidence-building measures," said Singh, noting that such measures include new agreements to reduce military activities, reestablish communication channels, and demonstrate a commitment to peaceful coexistence.

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