The ICAS Lectures

No. 2003-1014-YMY

The DPRK Nuclear Issue:
China’s Policy and the Korean Peninsula

Youming Yang

ICAS Fall Symposium &
Humanity, Peace and Security
October 14, 2003 12:00 NN - 5:45 PM.
U.S. Senate Dirksen Office Building Room SD 562
Capitol Hill
Washington, D. C.

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

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Biographic Sketch & Links: Youming Yang

The DPRK Nuclear Issue:
China’s Policy and the Korean Peninsula

Yang Youming
Counselor and Chief of International Section
Embassy of China in Washington

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor that I have been invited by ICAS to speak to such a distinguished audience. I understand that our Embassy and ICAS share an excellent relationship over the years. A number of high-ranking diplomats from our embassy have spoken here before me. Particular mention should be made that our former Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Mr. Li Zhaoxing, now Foreign Minister of China, spoke here several years ago. I am here today to keep the good tradition that we have started with ICAS.

I chose "The DPRK Nuclear Issue: China’s Policy and the Korean Peninsula" as the title of my presentation, because I think it is broad enough for me to include all the aspects that might be of interest to you. I will start with China’s relations with the DPRK and the ROK respectively, explain China’s views and position on the nuclear issue, touch upon the six party talks, and share with you some thoughts about the prospect of the six party talks before concluding.

I. China’s relations with the DPRK and the ROK

The Korean Peninsular is China’s close neighbor. It is linked to our mountains and waters, as we say. The stability on the Peninsula concerns the fundamental interests of both the north and the south on the Korean Peninsula, and it also directly affects China’s immediate surrounding environment, as well as peace and tranquility in the Northeast Asia and the whole Asia-Pacific region. To maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula has always been the starting point for China to deal with the issues concerning the Korean Peninsula.

Thanks to many years of consistent efforts, China now enjoys good relations with both the DPRK and ROK.

This year marks the 54th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the DPRK. The DPRK was among the first group of countries that recognized the People’s Republic of China after its founding in 1949. The two countries have developed and maintained traditional friendship and close cooperation in all fields all over the decades. There has been a frequent exchange of visits between the leaders of the two countries. The late Kim II Sung visited China numerous times during his life time. Chinese leaders of different generations, from late Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, to President Jiang Zemin, visited the DPRK on many occasions. The DPRK’s present leader Kim Jong II made two unofficial visits to China in quick succession in October 2000 and January 2001. In return, Jiang Zemin, then General Secretary of the Party, paid a visit to the DPRK in September 2001. The two sides agreed to promote the bilateral friendly cooperation to a higher level, and work to deepen and expand the exchanges and cooperation in various fields and among different agencies. In the economic field, China has been the DPRK’s main trading partner. In the year 2002, the two-way trade volume between the two countries amounted to 739 million dollars. China exports mainly crude oil, machinery and daily necessities, while imports from the DPRK steel, wood, minerals and aquatic produce. From 1994, when the DPRK started to be faced with a series of natural disasters, China started to provide aid, such as grain, charcoal, crude oil and fertilizer to the DPRK in order to alleviate its difficulties. We are glad to see that the DPRK has made great progress in its foreign relations in the past few years and we would like to see the normalization of relations between the DPRK and the United States and Japan. We are also glad to see that the DPRK is making progress in its economic development.

China and the ROK established diplomatic relations as late as 1992, however the young relationship had a strong take-off. In the short time since then, the friendly relations between the two sides have developed rapidly. One indication is that there has been a steady increase of high-level visits between the two countries. President Roh Moo Hyun’ s recent state visit to China in July this year was a continuation of such a good trend. The ROK has become the fifth largest trading partner of China, and China has become the third largest trading partner to the ROK. According to China’s statistics, the trade volume between the two countries registered more than 44 billion US dollars in 2000 and the contract value of the ROK’s investment in China reached 27.4 billion dollars by the end of 2002. In the fields of culture, education, sports and others, relations between the two countries have also been remarkably expanded. A movie or a soccer star in China is also recognized in the ROK or vice versa. There are currently about 22,000 Korean students studying in various universities and colleges in China. Han Liu, or the Korean current, a Chinese interpretation of the Korean fashion trend, has caught on among many youths in China. The two governments, satisfied with the growth of cooperation, have agreed to promote a further development of the China-ROK relations.

On the North-South relations, our position has always been very clear. China supports the improvement of relations, reconciliation and cooperation between the DPRK and ROK. And China also supports a self-determined and peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

II. China’s views and position on the DPRK nuclear issue

The DPRK nuclear issue is rooted in the cold war that still lingers on the Korean Peninsula. Since the nuclear issue resurfaced last year, the situation has been unpredictable as the positions of the DPRK and the US are seas apart. All countries, including China, are very concerned and wish that a peaceful solution could be found to the issue. Early in the year, the DPRK and the United States also showed their willingness to come to the table. In view of this, China decided to make efforts in persuading the two countries to the negotiating table. First, we succeeded in hosting the three party talks in Beijing towards the end of April, and then brought about the six party talks from August 27-29 with the participation of the DPRK, the US, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.

China’s role in the talks is consistent with its foreign policies. It is in accord with our policy towards the Korean Peninsula. With the objective of maintaining peace and stability on the Peninsula, we stated from the very beginning that China is against nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We maintain that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be ensured, and in the meantime, the security concerns of the DPRK should also be addressed. We also maintain that the nuclear issue should be settled peacefully through dialogue and negotiation. That’s the only way to ensure peace and stability on the Peninsula. We believe that a peaceful settlement of the issue is in the best interest of all parties.

It is in accord with our good-neighbor policy towards our surrounding regions. China’s goal in the region is to bring about a favorable climate in the areas around it. That is to say, we will work with others to maintain a peaceful environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is also in accord with our independent foreign policy of peace. After more than two decades of opening up and reforms, China has made great achievements in its economic growth. However China is still faced with great challenges. As a developing country with a per capita income of less than one thousand dollars, China’s priority is to sustain the economic development and continue to raise the living standard for its people. To achieve these goals, China needs a peaceful world.

III. The first round of six party talks.

The first round of six party talks was an important step towards the peaceful settlement of the DPRK nuclear issue, which is an objective shared by all the parties taking part in the talks and a diplomatic event applauded by the international community.

During the talks, all parties substantially elaborated their respective positions and ideas and had frank exchange of views of their concerns. Direct contacts between the parties also took place in different forms, an issue of much contention before the talks. Both the Unites States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conveyed constructive messages. The US expressed its willingness to seek a peaceful settlement to the nuclear issue. As regards to the security guarantee sought by the DPRK, the US stated that it has no intention to threaten, invade or attack the DPRK, and has no intention to seek regime change in the country. And the US hopes to solve the issues of mutual concern and move toward the establishment of diplomatic relations step by step. On the other hand, the DPRK side expressed its desire for peace and the wish to build friendship with all countries. The DPRK stated that denuclearization is its general objective, that once the US changes its hostile policy toward the DPRK and no longer threatens it, the DPRK would abandon its nuclear program and would coexist peacefully with the US. Other participating countries also played their respective important roles in the talks.

Although there still existed sharp differences in the talks, we view these as encouraging signs. After the talks, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, also head of the Chinese delegation, summarized six points of consensus shared by all parties.

  • All parties are committed to a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue through dialogue, to the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula so as to open up the prospect of lasting peace on the Peninsula;

  • All parties stand for the denuclearization of the Peninsula, and at the same time recognized the need to consider and solve the security concerns on the part of the DPRK;

  • All parties agree in principle to explore a general solution in a fair and reasonable manner;

  • All parties agree to refrain from any words or actions that might escalate the situation;

  • All parties wish to maintain dialogue, build confidence, reduce differences and to expand common ground;

  • All parties agree to continue the process of talks and to decide at an early date on the time and place of the next round of talks through diplomatic channels.

The first six party talks were useful and laid the groundwork for the continuation of the talks. The talks also represented a search for a new way of dealing with global security problems, and will have far reaching implications.

First, no matter how sharp and complicated the contradictions and conflicts are among different countries, a solution acceptable to all sides concerned should and can be found through communication and dialogue. This is the best way to ensure national and regional security.

Secondly, mutual trust building is necessary to resolve disputes. To build mutual trust, nations should respect each other and treat each other with equality, leave aside the use of force or threats of force, and refrain from comments and actions that might complicate the situation.

Thirdly, there may be discrepancies between the positions of different parties, but so long as they make joint efforts and discuss the problem with patience, it is possible to find a meeting point of their respective interests.

IV. Prospect for the six party talks.

Given the complexity of the nuclear issue, however, the talks won’t be easy and the process will be long. But we should not be pessimistic, on the contrary, we have reasons to be optimistic. We have already come a long way to start this process called the six party talks. We have overcome some difficulties that at times appeared to be impossible. China would like to see the continuation of the talks, and will continue to make positive efforts to promote the process. We hope that all parties, especially the US and the DPRK will show flexibility and make their efforts, so that the talks could be continued and progress be made. We hope that through more dialogues, confidence or trust between all parties, especially between the US and the DPRK will be increased, and the final objective of peaceful settlement will be reached step by step. We hope that all parties should show political determination to the process, concentrating on the nuclear issue itself, avoiding issues that might complicate the process. We also hope that each party will bring diplomatic wisdom into full play, develop creative ideas, in order to push the process forward. In short, patience, flexibility, trust, determination and wisdom, these are the most important ingredients that are required to lead the process to a successful conclusion. With these ingredients putting together, we are confident that a peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue is not only possible, but within our ability to achieve.

Finally, on the DPRK Nuclear Issue, it is a shared objective of China and the United States to find a peaceful settlement through diplomacy. It is in the interests of China and those of the US to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Our cooperation with the United States on the DPRK issue has contributed to the improved relations, which, as Secretary of State Collin Powell rightly pointed in his GWU address, are the best since Nixon. And China will continue to work together with the US and others, in the hope to bring about a peaceful resolution to the issue.

Thank you.

This page last updated 10/18/2003 jdb

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