China should respect Korea's sovereignty
The latest talks between South Korean and Chinese foreign ministers have left a bad taste as Beijing went too far in putting forward irrational demands that could lead to interference in a sovereign state's internal affairs. This is raising concerns that bilateral ties might turn sour amid the escalating rivalry between Chin and the United States.
Foreign Minister Park Jin and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi agreed during their talks held Tuesday in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao that the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile battery in South Korea should no longer hamper Seoul-Beijing relations. However, they only agreed to disagree on the most pending issues.
Minister Wang suggested that the two countries develop their ties based on the principle of independence, self-reliance and friendship. He also called for the promotion of smooth supply chains to benefit both sides. Besides, Wang stressed the importance of non-interference in each other's domestic matters. But he contradicted himself by demanding that the Yoon Suk-yeol administration uphold the "Three Nos" policy of the previous Moon Jae-in government.
The policy refers to no additional deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system here, no participation in a U.S.-led missile defense network and no trilateral military alliance with the U.S. and Japan. China has repeatedly requested the new Seoul government to stick to the policy. However, Yoon has left open the possibility of South Korea allowing more THAAD batteries on its soil in order to strengthen the country's alliance with the U.S.
Seoul has already made it clear that the THAAD deployment is a matter of security and sovereignty to protect the country from North Korea's possible nuclear and missile attacks. In other words, Beijing has no right to tell Seoul what to do and what not to do about the THAAD issue. Minister Park explained this to Wang, making it clear that THAAD is a "means for self-defense" against the North's military threats. It is regrettable that the Chinese side has refused to accept the South Korean position.
What's more serious is that the Chinese foreign ministry unilaterally said Wednesday that Seoul has even pledged to limit the operation of the anti-missile battery in addition to the Three Nos principle. Immediately, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed displeasure over what its Chinese counterpart said. It warned that the issue would become an obstacle to bilateral relations if Beijing continues to raise the issue.
It is also absurd for Minister Wang to call on Seoul not to join the U.S.-proposed chip alliance, also known as Chip 4. The demand came after South Korea decided to attend a preliminary Chip 4 meeting scheduled for late this month or early September. Beijing claimed that the chip alliance is aimed at excluding China from global supply chains amid the escalating Sino-U.S. strategic competition. It would be better Beijing to accept Park's explanation that its decision was made in consideration of national interest and was not intended to exclude China.
If China really wants to develop a strategic cooperative partnership with South Korea 30 years after diplomatic normalization, it should no longer try to put more pressure on Seoul to do what it wants. Otherwise, China cannot avoid criticism for applying a double standard. That's why Wang's stress for independence, self-reliance and non-interference sounds self-contradictory.