Jul 19, 2017
Yi Peng:ROK makes right moves for reconciliation
Yi Peng:ROK makes right moves for reconciliation

Relations between China and the Republic of Korea suffered after Park Geun-hye, the impeached and ousted ROK president, allowed the United States to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system on ROK soil while ignoring Beijing's repeated protests. The decision not only undermined China-ROK ties but also hurt bilateral exchanges-data show the number of Chinese tourists visiting Jeju island this year has dropped by 90 percent compared with 2016.

The unfortunate development, however, is an opportunity for nongovernmental think tanks of both countries to combine their forces and find ways to propel bilateral ties forward.

China fully understands the ROK's need to boost its security, but it remains debatable whether THAAD is the right choice for that. If both sides pay too much attention to THAAD, it might cause a Matthew Effect, an allegorical term which means an observation by an eminent personality will get most of the attention for a discovery or an idea, and the real issue at stake will be ignored.

We at Pangoal Institution commend ROK President Moon Jae-in for paying equal attention to two problems since taking office recently, that is, how to ease tensions between the ROK and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and how to resolve the regional conflicts caused by THAAD.

In fact, on June 7, the ROK government suspended the installation of THAAD, pending an environmental investigation ordered by it. By suspending the installation of THAAD, Moon has eased the tensions to some extent. At the same time, he is interacting with neighboring countries to find ways to resolve the regional conflicts.

China attaches great importance to its relations with the ROK. So, at a time when THAAD has hurt bilateral ties, Pangoal Institutions and other think tanks must shoulder some of the responsibilities to help improve the relations between the two countries. Whether or not such think tanks' efforts are Track II or Track 1.5 diplomacy, I believe we need to combine various tracks together for the sole purpose of improving Beijing-Seoul relations.

There are many areas in which China and the ROK can strengthen cooperation-tourism, technology, clean energy and environmental protection, to name a few. In particular, now that US President Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement, China and the ROK can work together to reduce environmental pollution. The two countries could also make efforts to co-build low-carbon cities, which is the common concern of people on both sides. And THAAD should not curb their cooperation.

Besides, the ROK must realize that by deploying THAAD, it cannot resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue permanently. Actually, the deployment of THAAD could have the opposite effect: make ROK people more insecure.

The Chinese and ROK peoples see each other favorably. Hunan Satellite TV, the TV station of Central China's Hunan province, has introduced many ROK stars to China's entertainment industry, and most of them have been warmly welcomed by Chinese audiences.

In sum, the two countries' peoples, nongovernmental think tanks and other institutions have bigger roles to play in improving China-ROK ties while the two governments hold talks to settle their differences. The peoples of the two countries have one thing in common-they want the peninsula nuclear issue to be resolved through negotiations.

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