North Korea’s Nuclear Program

China’s Diplomatic Wisdom Hailed

Wang Yi
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi listens to a reporter's question after a session of the six-way talks in Beijing, Aug. 29, 2003 (AFP/Getty Images Photo).

History will remember this moment: the heads of the delegations to the Beijing six-party talks clasping their hands together. The good faith of cooperation demonstrated by the six parties will be an important safeguard of the eventual advent of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The six-party talks over the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula held among China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia, and Japan were closed at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on the morning of Aug. 29. The parties thanked the Chinese side for the important efforts and thoughtful arrangements it had made as host nation to ensure the smooth progress of the talks. They said that these talks provided an important opportunity for the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and laid a foundation for the continuation of the talks process.

The root cause of the nuclear issue is the fact that the Korean Peninsula has been unable to dispel the shadow of the Cold War to this day. Since the nuclear issue came to light, the DPRK and the United States have been antagonistic with each other in their main viewpoints and positions. The situation on the peninsula has been escalating.

Starting in March this year, the Chinese side conducted many rounds of diplomatic mediations. In April, the China-DPRK-United States trilateral talks were first realized, marking an important step forward toward the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue. Recently, two Chinese vice ministers for foreign affairs, Dai Bingguo and Wang Yi, visited the DPRK and the United States, respectively, to exchange views with the DPRK and the United States over relevant issues. As special envoy of the Chinese government, Dai Bingguo delivered to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao for President George W. Bush in Washington.

Besides its political resolve, the Chinese side also showed superior wisdom in this diplomatic exercise. The host arranged the meeting tables in a hexagon so that all six parties could sit as equals with each party taking one side. The DPRK and U.S. representatives sat next to each other and the DPRK and ROK representatives sat opposite each other. Four lounging corners, as if casually set up, were arranged in the meeting hall, to facilitate informal bilateral consultations for the parties. It has been disclosed that it was in this kind of environment that the DPRK side and the U.S. side had contact with each other.

After the talks were closed, Wang Yi, head of the Chinese delegation, told reporters that although the road of peace talks ahead will not be all smooth sailing, as long as all the parties pitch in, we will be able to find a way to solve the nu-clear issue on the Korean Peninsula peacefully and thereby open the door to lasting peace.

He said: “The six parties arrived here in good faith, with hope, and for the sake of peace. The talks made progress and were also divided by differences. But all parties considered the talks beneficial. The Chinese side supports and welcomes all efforts that can help move the dialogue and peace talks forward. China does not approve of the approach of imposing sanctions or pressure and is even more opposed to war. In the process of the six-party talks, the Chinese side has maintained a flexible and open attitude in terms of how to conduct the talks and what to discuss. It has made a point of listening to the views of all parties, especially those of the DPRK and the United States, to identify their common denominator.”

Others weighed in as well. Li Dunqiu, an expert on DPRK issues, pointed out: “Given the asymmetry of local power in Northeast Asia, the security situation on the Korean Peninsula is particularly grim. So far, Northeast Asia has not yet established an effective approach to solving regional issues. The six-party talks should be an embryonic form of the future security dialogue mechanism in Northeast Asia.” State Counselor Tang Jiaxuan said: “No matter how intense a conflict or dispute between two countries, it is necessary and possible to find a solution that is acceptable to both sides through communication and dialogue. This is the best approach to realizing national and regional security.”

Analysts think that actively mediating the six-party talks has demonstrated the image of a responsible China. China is increasingly becoming an important force in maintaining the peace in its own region.