Even if the United States and North Korea agree on denuclearization, China, Russia and other countries need to cooperate in continuing sanctions against Pyongyang to achieve this goal. Japan and the other countries concerned should work together to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula after such an agreement is reached.
However, relations between the United States and China are a concern. China initially displayed a cooperative attitude toward the United States as was shown by the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping intensified Beijing’s pressure on Pyongyang at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump. Yet Washington and Beijing now appear to be competing to gain the upper hand in efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
A trade dispute is intensifying between the United States and China and the two countries are also in conflict over Taiwan and the South China Sea. Trump at one point expressed his displeasure at China, pointing out that North Korea took a tougher stance following China-North Korea summit talks.
The struggle for leadership between the United States and China could adversely affect the process for the denuclearization of North Korea. For example, if China is to ease its sanctions on North Korea on its own, such a move would raise fears that North Korea may not work seriously toward denuclearization.
If North Korea is to agree to abandon its nuclear weapons, China could demand that the United States remove the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system deployed to South Korea. Such a move could complicate the process of denuclearization.
China, which participated in the Korean War and signed the cease-fire agreement, has the responsibility to achieve peace on the peninsula. If Washington and Pyongyang agree on denuclearization, Beijing should extend maximum cooperation in implementing the accord.
The Korean Peninsula has been historically at the mercy of neighboring major powers. It is necessary to give consideration to South Korea, which is reluctant to see a revival of such history. However, it is essential to create a security mechanism involving countries concerned in order to maintain peace in Northeast Asia, including on the Korean Peninsula.
The framework of six-party talks involving North and South Korea, Japan, the United States, China and Russia already exists. The quickest way to achieve peace on the peninsula is to fully utilize this mechanism. The use of this framework could prevent the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula from being at the mercy of the United States and China and allow Japan to maintain its influence on the process. Moscow has expressed support for the utilization of this framework.
Prior to the U.S.-North Korea summit, Japan and the United States will participate in a Group of Seven (G-7) summit conference in Canada while China and Russia will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Qingdao, China.
Now is the time for the countries involved to display a cooperative attitude toward achieving their common goal of denuclearizing North Korea and ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula rather than keeping each other in check.
Conflicts between the U.S. and China and between the U.S. and Russia are a major destabilizing factor in the international community. If these countries can cooperate in efforts to achieve their common goal of the denuclearization of North Korea, it will help eliminate mutual distrust between these major powers.