Summits may give Park leverage over NK, Japan

September 1, 2015

Possibility grows for a trilateral meeting of Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo

(Korea Times)

(Korea Times)

By Kang Seung-woo

President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in Beijing today, the first in a series of upcoming talks expected to give Seoul leverage over North Korea and Japan.

Xi will then meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the end of this month. Park will fly to Washington to hold talks with Obama on Oct. 16.

In addition, there is a growing possibility for a trilateral summit between the leaders of Korea, China and Japan. If it takes place, it would be Park’s first summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

During these meetings, Park plans to ask the neighboring countries to play a role in resolving Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs, presidential aides said.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is at the top of agenda in the region, but neighboring countries are currently paying little attention to the issue,” said Park Won-gon, an international studies professor at Handong Global University.

“Sydney Seiler, U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks, will step down, while the Obama administration is engaged in the Iran nuclear deal. Also, China does not pay much attention to the North’s nuclear issue due to their recent shaky relations.”

He advised Park to make clear Korea’s stance on the issue during the summit with Xi.

“As there will be a summit between the United States and China later this month, and Park will also meet with Obama in October, Park needs to make clear her willingness to resolve the issues,” he said.

“The summit is really important because it can build momentum on North Korea issues.”

Ju Chul-ki, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs, told reporters Monday that Korea expects, “China to play a role in resolving North Korea’s nuclear issue,” and “in facilitating peace and stability and a peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula.”

Given that Park decided to visit China for its war anniversary events despite possible diplomatic strains with Washington, China is also expected to show sincere actions regarding the problem.

Park and Obama will hold their fourth summit at the White House, Oct. 16.

The meeting was rescheduled from June due to the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which killed 36 people.

According to Cheong Wa Dae, they will discuss cooperation on the North Korean nuclear problem and other North Korea policies, as well as collaboration for peace, stability and prosperity in Northeast Asia.

On Aug. 12, the White House also said that they will discuss the current security situation on the Korean Peninsula in the face of the continued threat from North Korea.

At the same time, Park will make efforts to ease U.S. concerns over stronger ties between Seoul and Beijing, which could weaken a three-way alliance with Japan and Korea against a rising China in the region.

As part of the efforts, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed in Anchorage, Alaska, Monday, that the two countries will continue to coordinate closely on North Korea, according to the State Department.

Park’s trip to China is also drawing attention in regard to reopening the possibility of a trilateral summit with China and Japan. Park proposed holding such a meeting in November.

During the summit with Xi, Park is expected to seek ways to hold the meeting, about which China has been skeptical due to Japan’s distorted perception of history.

Should Park draw a positive response from Xi about it, discussions about the meeting are likely to make progress and a potential trilateral summit is likely to lead Park to meet face-to-face with Abe on the sidelines of the event.

Although Park took office in February 2013, she has yet to hold a summit with Abe due to history-related issues.

Still remaining at loggerheads over history, Korea needs Japan in dealing with issues of North Korea and Northeast Asia, so Park may take action to take the initiative in bilateral ties.