"United" Nations China & Korea Diplomacy

Xi Jinping Outsources Meeting With Park Geun-Hye to His Food Taster

food tasterChina’s unhelpful behavior in the Security Council would have been reason enough for Park Geun Hye to follow the example of Shinzo Abe,* who deferred meeting with Chinese officials and instead met with the leaders of “countries sharing the same values, such as democracy and the rule of law.”  In retrospect, that might have been best:

In her meeting with China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun yesterday, President-elect Park Geun-hye said North Korea’s nuclear weapons development cannot be tolerated and that Seoul will take stern measures against Pyongyang’s additional provocations, according to her spokeswoman.  [Joongang Ilbo]

So the Chinese had a Vice Foreign Minister — not even the Foreign Minister, but the Vice Foreign Minister — greet the President-Elect of South Korea and hand her a letter from Xi Jingping?  How many of you can even name a Deputy Secretary of State without googling? Would this be another case of that patient diplomatic sagacity Tom Friedman has been touting?

The incoming president, however, said that doors will be open for dialogue and cooperation through a “trust-building process.”

“North Korea’s nuclear development can never be tolerated,” Park was quoted as saying by spokeswoman Cho Yoon-sun. “South Korea will respond sternly to any provocations by the North.”

Cho said that Park, at the same time, said she will leave open the windows for dialogue and cooperation, including humanitarian aid.

It’s all so rational, it can’t possibly work.  I’ll say it again: when Park Geun Hye talks about North Korea, she sounds a lot like Lee Myung Bak — and Barack Obama — sounded before Kim Jong Il tested a missile and a nuke, murdered Park Wang-Ja at Kumgang, renounced the armistice, sank the Cheonan, and shelled Yeongpyeong.

One person who definitely isn’t planning to offer North Korea any of that hippie dialogue and cooperation crap? Shinzo Abe.

It may be best that Xi himself didn’t show up, given his previously expressed views that the Korean War was, from the Commie perspective, “a great and just war for safeguarding peace and resisting aggression” that was imposed on China by “imperialist invaders” and resulted in “a great victory in the pursuit of world peace and human progress.”  Xi added that, to quote the Chosun Ilbo’s translation, “the Chinese people have not forgotten their great friendship with North Korea.  Yes, Melanie Kirkpatrick has written all about how the Chinese people show their friendship to North Koreans, which can sound a lot like the “friendship” that Japanese soldiers showed to the Korean comfort women of their time. Xi Jinping apparently has equally chilling concepts of world peace and human progress.  Yes, friendly guys, those ChiComs.  I’m sure the people of North Korea will remember that friendship for a long time.

It it just me, or has Asia suddenly become a prolific producer of especially zany heads of state? I’d begun to wonder if North Korea’s condition was contagious when Aidan Foster-Carter steered me to this story on how Chinese neo-Maoists have turned North Korea into a place of pilgrimage.

Meanwhile, Kurt Campbell just led a U.S. delegation to Seoul to meet with Park Geun-Hye’s transition team, while the awful Glyn Davies is leading another delegation to Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing, just to maximize the potential for inconsistency.  Campbell has traditionally been one of the most solid members of Obama’s foreign policy team, which is why it’s a pity that he’s leaving it.  Campbell used the occasion to deliver a strong hint that North Korea should not test a nuke, something the North Koreans have reportedly told China they intend to do soon.

I’m sure that as before, the Chinese are exerting all their considerable influence to prevent that.

Campbell also said that the U.S. continues to push for sanctions at the Security Council, something our U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice, hasn’t managed to get through the Great Wall of China since 2009.

John Bolton was unavailable for comment.

*  On the other hand, whoever advised Abe that Asian nations would line up like Apple fanboys to join an “arc of freedom and prosperity” really should find a new line of work. It doesn’t do to remind people of your own imperial misadventures when you’re trying to convince people — correctly in my view — that China’s imperial ambitions are the greater danger now. This kind of Japanese bumbling only helps China to confuse the present danger by helping it change the subject to the distant past. Even I find myself in rare agreement with KNCA, at least about the optics of it.

Correction:  A reader points out that the Park-Zhang meeting occurred in Seoul, not Beijing.  I apologize for the error and have corrected it.


  1. China’s unhelpful behavior in the Security Council would have been reason enough for Park Geun Hye to follow the example of Shinzo Abe,* who deferred meeting with Chinese officials and instead met with the leaders of “countries sharing the same values, such as democracy and the rule of law.”

    Like Vietnam? There are perfectly good reasons to engage Vietnam, provided a certain critical distance is maintained. But if China’s really intent on reviving the Cold War, it would be nice if our side could do a bit better this time and avoid pretending that odious regimes represent our values just because they face a common enemy. Making Vietnam the first stop on a “values diplomacy” tour sends an awfully confused message, especially coming just one day after this happened.


  2. Point taken about Vietnam. There’s probably only so far I’d personally support an alliance with its government as it is today, although its society is changing rapidly, and will eventually force the government to change, too. On the other hand, we were once willing to ally ourselves with Stalin to defeat Hitler. I’m not such a purist that I’d deny the occasional need to make unsavory compromises to contain a greater evil. I’ve been to Vietnam, and it’s no model of good government, but its days as a regional hegemon are mostly over.


  3. Which is fine, to the extent that this hypothetical pan-Asian “arc” is a bloc against regional hegemony. But then what is it a bloc for? Non-interference and self-determination are essentially empty values in and of themselves and most commonly wheeled out as alibis. The ASEAN nations themselves aren’t discarding these concepts (as well they shouldn’t) but are increasingly less inclined to use them as substitutes for democracy and rule of law–see, for example, Burma’s rapid progress towards an incipient democracy, the reemergence of stable democratic governance in Thailand, or the decline of the authoritarian dominant-party system in Malaysia (and maaaaaybe even Singapore).

    So it suggests an incredible tone-deafness for Abe to make his first foreign visit to one of the three ASEAN countries (Laos and Cambodia are the others) that’s actively resisting this tide, and whose political system is indistinguishable from the would-be regional hegemon’s. And what should we make of Abe visiting Vietnam while dispatching his Foreign Minister to the democratic Philippines? Or of “values diplomacy” talk while the PM is preparing an “Abe Doctrine” that apparently reiterates old talking points on security and economic exchanges and sticks democracy somewhere in the background? The whole thing smacks of Japan’s old shopkeeper-diplomacy approach, which I’d hoped we had moved beyond.



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