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China, US have common interest but different solutions for N.Korea issue

Da Wei, head of the American research center of the China Institute of Modern International Relations, is a senior scholar on foreign policy of the United States and China-US relations. In an interview with the China Press, a US-based Chinese language newspaper, he shared his views on China-US relations with regard to the North Korea nuclear issue.

Da's viewpoint: China and US have no major differences on the N.Korea nuclear issue, which will not be the main topic of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. China-US cooperation on N.Korea nuclear issue will be the main direction of the two countries’ diplomacy, although the two sides offer different solutions for this issue.

China Press: What are the differences between China and US over the resolution of the N.Korea nuclear issue?

Da: China and the US have both common interests and differences over the N.Korea nuclear issue. While the two sides both oppose N.Korea to develop nuclear weapons, which is the basic interest of the two countries, they pursue different methods to realize this goal.

There are only two ways to realize denuclearization of N.Korea - eliminating the security threat to N. Korea from the United States, and pressing N.Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.

Globally, the second measure is more popular. But while the US thinks the sanctions the sterner the better, China worries that over-pressure may trigger war.

China Press: Is N.Korea denuclearization an essential interest of the US?

Da: Both China and US want N.Korea to be denuclearized. It is the essential interest of the two countries. In short term, N.Korea’s nuclear weapons are not strong enough to threaten the American continent, but it would still pose threat to the US army deployed in South Korea and Japan, America’s two allies which could also be threatened. But eventually it would affect the American continent.

China Press: Can Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) kill two birds with one stone?

THAAD does not work fully, but it will defend China indirectly. I think US prefers denuclearization to THAAD out of security considerations.

China Press: Since China and US share common interest over the N.Korea nuclear issue, is it still necessary for the two sides to have a dialogue during the Summit?

The Nuclear Security Summit does not focus on only one region. Rather, its main agenda is to talk about how to prevent nuclear proliferation throughout the world. Common interest over the N.Korea nuclear issue is the precondition and bottom line for China-US cooperation.

China Press: Is the tension on the Korean Peninsula still not high enough to become the focus?

America used to worry that China would not sign the deal or not take action. In fact, tension on the peninsula has been eased to some extent since the UN Security Council passed the sanctions.  

In the past few days, China has been executing the sanctions sternly, for example, imposing embargo on N.Korea ships from entering Yingkou port. This round of sanctions is unprecedented, and the US now is looking forward to results.

China Press: What if the sanctions do not work?

It is truly difficult to realize denuclearization in N.Korea, that is, to make N.Korea abandon nuclear weapons, since it already has some nuclear capability.

However, even if this round of sanctions will not work finally, China and the US still have options other than use of force or imposing harsher sanctions. It is up to the US to decide whether or not to have a serious dialogue that might have a positive impact on the N.Korea issue.

China has always been hoping US to move one step forward, because the most important reason that N.Korea is developing nuclear weapons is the security threat from the US. If the US shows its understanding, such as having dialogue and even establishing normal diplomatic relations, N.Korea will not go further. The Iran nuclear issue has already set a good example. Even if denuclearization would not be realized, it would still be possible to freeze nuclear weapons research.

However, from the perspective of history and reality, it is very hard for the US even to take this small step. China will show its support diplomatically, but will not expect too much in terms of results.


(This article is translated and edited by Chunmei.)

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