S.Korea Risks Being Sidelined in Regional Power Play

  • By Ahn Jun-yong

    April 29, 2019 11:37

    South Korea risks being left out of the regional power play as its excessive focus on North Korea diverts its diplomacy from what the big powers all around are up to.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday flew straight to Beijing after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in only one example of several where South Korea is being left out of the picture.

    People walk along a hiking trail that leads up to the demilitarized zone in the border town of Goseong, Gangwon Province on Saturday. It opened to civilians for the first time since the armistice in 1953 to coincide with the first anniversary of the inter-Korean summit. Two more trails in Paju and Cheorwon will open soon. /Yonhap

    Putin said Russia and China share a "common plan" when it comes to North Korean denuclearization and added that a declaration of an end to the Korean War must precede any demands made to North Korea.

    Earlier he said it is vital to give the North Korean regime a multilateral security guarantee if it is to denuclearize. Russia is eying a revival of something like the six-party negotiating format to tackle North Korean denuclearization, while the participating countries guarantee the continuity of the Kim regime.

    Putin and Xi described each other as "core partners."

    Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Friday. /AFP-Yonhap

    Russia and China have also been growing closer to Japan recently. In October last year, China and Japan signed a 200-billion yuan currency swap agreement, and last week Japanese warships brandished the rising sun flag as they participated in a fleet review in Qingdao.

    Russia and Japan are planning a summit in June to forge a peace treaty. Their leaders met in January too.

    But South Korea is floundering in efforts to embrace North Korea. The North refuses to respond to South Korea's proposals for a summit, while during their last summit, President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump merely confirmed their differences about North Korea.

    Shin Beom-chul from the Asan Institute for Policy Studies said, "Our diplomatic approach focused solely on North Korea, and the North and the four superpowers now feel no need to meet our leader. If we continue to neglect our regional neighbors, we could end up weakening our role in the denuclearization process and being snubbed by North Korea."

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