"Korea's Future Lies With China, Not the U.S."

Li Dunqiu, director of the Korean Peninsula Research Center of China's State Council. (Photo: Sunny Lee)

South Korea's relationships with China and the U.S. have come under scrutiny recently.

Controversy surrounded America's handover of wartime military control of South Korea to Seoul; and a recent report revealed that the South Koreans ditched a trade deal with China under U.S. pressure. South Korea is currently pursuing a Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Li Dunqiu, a top Chinese expert on the Korean peninsula, argued in Beijing this month that Korea should make a strategic decision to come closer to China because "Korea's future lies with China, not with the U.S."

Dunqiu is the director of the Korean Peninsula Research Center of the State Council. The State Council is China's cabinet of government. He makes frequent trips to Korea and the United States.

With China's spectacular economic performance and its growing influence in East Asia, including the Korean peninsula, the U.S. is becoming wary of the change in the region's hegemonic landscape.

Some think that the world's current superpower and its rising competitor China, are "clashing" in the region's hottest spot, each hoping to exercise the most influence.

Sunny Lee interviewed Li Dunqiu in Beijing on Aug. 21, 2006.

Lee: There are some lawmakers in South Korea who believe Korea should make a strategic partnership with China over America in the 21st century.

Dunqiu: They are correct. In the 21st century, Korea needs to come closer to China. First, China and Korea share common interests that are larger than those between Korea and the U.S.

In East Asia, America just wants to maintain its hegemonic order. The U.S. has little regard for stability, prosperity and common development in the region. The main reason is that essentially the U.S. itself isn't located in the region. On the other hand, China pays closer attention to these issues than the U.S. does.

Does China want the reunification of the Korean peninsula?

In the Korean peninsula, the U.S. wants to maintain the status quo. China is different. The U.S. doesn't want to see economic cooperation between China and North Korea, either. China, on the other hand, wants the two Koreas to improve their relationship because China believes doing so would also benefit itself. But the U.S. doesn't want to see this [improvement].


It's because if South and North Koreas improve their relationship, South Korea's anti-American sentiment will get stronger.

America also doesn't want to see the unification between South and North Korea. China on the other hand hopes to see improvement between the two Koreas, including economic cooperation and eventually reunification. A reunified and prospering Korean peninsula would bring immense economic benefits to China's northeastern region [where China currently borders North Korea].

Could you talk of China's regional strategy surrounding the Korean peninsula?

China's regional strategy is essentially beneficial to Korea. America's stance [against the unification] doesn't benefit Korea. It is very clear which side is more beneficial to South Korea. Besides, the U.S. is behind Japan's becoming not just an economic power, but now also its growing military might.

American support of Japan to become a military power gravely damages the interests of South Korea and China. A newly-armed Japan's target of aggression will first be Korea, and then China. There is a clear difference of interest between China and America on it. Choosing America, South Korea will merely become its scapegoat.

In case of war, America will support Japan, not Korea?

Last Sunday, I met some lawmakers from the United States who were visiting Beijing. I asked them: "If there were a war between Korea and Japan, which side would you support?" They said they wouldn't take a side.

"Not taking a side" fundamentally hurts Korea's interests. Practically, Japan's military power is number two in the world, after that of the U.S. Then, America's "no engagement" will encourage the hawkish politicians in Japan to be more aggressive toward Korea.

If there is a dispute between China and Japan, America will also support Japan, although they wouldn't say it publicly.

In economy, politics, security and culture, in all these areas, Korea and China have more things in common than it has with the U.S. So, my most important point is that in the 21st century, Korea's strategic choice should be China, not America.

Li Dunqiu is someone that the foreign media frequently seeks out for interviews to learn "what China thinks" on issues related to the Korean peninsula. When he was interviewed by a U.S. newspaper in July right after the North Korean missile tests, he said the issue was "too sensitive for me to answer." He clearly knows his boundaries.

When asked at the end of the interview, this time, whether there was any thing that he didn't want to be included in the published interview, he paused for a moment and said: "I don't think there was anything sensitive about what I said today."

This article was originally published in OhMyNews International.

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