With tensions on the Korean peninsula high after North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, Beijing has been pushing South Korea to consider pursuing a comprehensive peace agreement. Officials in Seoul made it clear, however, that they’re focused on more immediate and narrow concerns. Yonhap News Agency:
South Korea made clear Thursday that it’s too early to start talks on a peace treaty with North Korea, saying denuclearization is a more pressing task.It was responding to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s offer of formal consultations on replacing the truce on the peninsula with a peace pact. The two Koreas are technically in a state of war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in the Armistice Agreement [. . .]South Korea’s Foreign Ministry stressed that the North should first show its resolve to give up its nuclear arsenal.
Meanwhile, South Korea has been welcoming of United States support: American F-22s participated in a high-profile flyover through South Korean airspace yesterday, and President Obama plans to follow Japan’s lead and impose new sanctions on North Korea soon.It’s clear that, as Dan Drezner observed last week, South Korea has written off China as the solution to North Korea and begun to work alone and with Washington:
South Korea has closed the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which will hit Pyongyang in the pocketbook. New sanctions legislation is moving through Congress that should squeeze Pyongyang’s ability to move money in and out. The United States and South Korea have now formally begun talks about deploying the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. This will really irk China, but Seoul is now at the point where it doesn’t care so much about that. This is a marked change in tone from conversations others and I had with South Korean officials last summer.
As we’ve been saying, when North Korea provokes, China loses.