Saturday, July 27th will mark the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War armistice. Sixty years is a long time, but the pace of progress in resolving tensions on the Korean Peninsula has been glacial. The U.S. is still strongly allied with South Korea, providing 28,500 troops for its security and defense. North Korea is continuing to live provocatively and challenge the world at each turn. And China is still the only real ally North Korea possesses. If that is what the last 60 years has been like, does it mean the 61st year will be more of the same? Perhaps not. As South Korea, China and their partners discuss reconvening the Six-Party Talks, we could see China taking a stronger role.
When the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, met with President Obama in California, both agreed that they could not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. To bolster their words, China has reportedly blocked certain banking channels North Korea has used for its nuclear program. This is an encouraging move for the U.S. and South Korea, especially at a time of U.S. budget cuts. To have another influential player actively seeking a stop to North Korea’s nuclear armament can only ease some of the stress both nations face. However, China could be doing more.
China could reopen the Six-Party Talks. If Beijing is serious about stopping North Korea from becoming a nuclear state then taking the initiative to reengage could go a long way. Both the U.S. and South Korea are reluctant to begin conversations without some assurances from the North, thus, handing China the responsibility of getting everyone to the table. China is uniquely qualified to do just that. It is still North Korea’s number one trade partner and aid donor.
Getting back to the table with more support could make the 61st year of the armistice the beginning of real change for the better in the security of the Korean people.
Lisanne Boling, Research Assistant
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