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Respect must be earned

Aug 01,2017
Whenever North Korea makes a provocation, South Koreans have two uneasy feelings. The first is anger at the maverick state due to its reckless behavior bent on advancing its missile technology regardless of South Korea’s proposal for dialogue and the United Nations’ sanctions. The second is our frustration at the way China responds. Despite its immense influence over Pyongyang, Beijing ends up deepening our security crisis with its signature lukewarm attitude. China reacted in the same way even after the North’s launch on Friday of its most advanced ballistic missile. As it turned out, Beijing has again blamed Seoul’s defensive posture more than Pyongyang’s offensive act.

After the North test-fired an ICBM Friday, China’s foreign ministry issued two statements. First, it expressed opposition to the provocation as it violates a UN Security Council resolution. Then it strongly urged Seoul to retract its plan to deploy four additional launchers of the Terminal high Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield by using its toughest-ever rhetoric such as “grave concern” and “determined opposition.”

China’s reaction does not make sense. We wonder what Beijing’s real intention is. Does it really believe Seoul’s defensive move to counter Pyongyang’s missile threats contributes more to a security crisis on the Korean Peninsula? Not vice versa?

As seen in U.S. President Donald Trump’s outrage in a Twitter message, the international community’s disappointment over Beijing’s tepid reactions grows. Nevertheless, the Global Times, China’s most belligerent mouthpiece, came up with the poor excuse that China is not capable of keeping the North’s nuclear and missile activities at bay. As a country that accounts for more than 90 percent of the North’s total trade and over 90 percent of its oil supplies, that’s sheer sophistry.

China’s actions are upsetting. Even though sanctions on North Korea are taken within the UN framework, China continues to find loopholes citing the need to protect ordinary people in the North. But China takes unilateral sanctions on South Korean exports, citing Chinese public sentiment. Does Beijing believe that Thaad batteries deployed in South Korea for defensive purposes pose a bigger threat to its security than the repercussions of the North’s nuclear weapons?

As long as China approaches the matter in such a lopsided way, concerned parties can hardly find an answer to the crisis. China must follow the world’s growing aspirations for the stability of the peninsula. Otherwise, it cannot turn the world’s deepening frustration into respect for a global leader in the 21st century.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 1, Page 30