[News analysis] US and China agree yet to agree on specifics of expert group

Posted on : 2016-06-09 18:36 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Civilian channel could get more diplomatic results than government, which may be hesitant to act
US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the final day of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue
US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the final day of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue

The separate session on sanctions against North Korea that took place during the Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the US and China that was held in Beijing on June 6 and 7 was requested by the US because of concerns that China was relaxing its stance on the sanctions, sources say.

According to multiple interviews conducted by the Hankyoreh on June 8, the group of “experts” that US Secretary of State John Kerry said on June 7 the sides had agreed would “come together to coordinate the full and effective implementation of sanctions going forward from now” appears to refer to the additional session for North Korean sanctions that took place during the talks.

That would mean that the “experts” Kerry mentioned were officials from the Chinese and US governments. This could also mean that he used the phrase “going forward from now” because the session in question was held after or around the same time as the closing ceremony of the talks.

The session on North Korean sanctions that took place on June 7 reportedly involved working-level discussion between Chinese and US officials equivalent in rank to deputy assistant minister.

The fact that China agreed to sit down with the US for a bilateral discussion of North Korean sanctions is considered unusual given the recent engagement between North Korea and China. The fact that Kerry explicitly thanked the Chinese on this point appears to reflect this mood.

It does not appear that this additional session will develop into regular or occasional bilateral talks. The very fact that the US managed to put pressure on China to tighten the reins on North Korean sanctions means that the US likely got what it wanted. Given this, the fact that Kerry mentioned coordination by experts does not necessarily mean that a separate group will be set up to assess China‘s implementation of the sanctions.

Nevertheless, it remains possible that when Kerry referred to coordination by experts he meant not a separate session during the talks but rather the creation of a new group of experts in the private sector. Around an election and before a new administration takes power, civilian channels can be used to accomplish more diplomatic results than the government, which may be hesitant to take action.

“While the Chinese have yet to offer any explanation, Secretary Kerry’s remarks by themselves could be taken to mean a two-track meeting,” said a diplomatic source in Beijing. A two-track meeting refers to talks carried out in the private sector.

Experts on China also do not expect the US to increase conflict on foreign policy issues during the roughly six months that remain before the next president takes office at the beginning of next year.

“China and the US have confirmed the differences in their positions. As long as North Korea does not carry out a fifth nuclear test, I do not think that there will be any changes on the North Korean nuclear issue,” said Cheng Xiaohe, a professor at China’s Renmin University.

On June 8, Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea’s chief delegate to the Six-Party Talks on North Korea‘s Nuclear Program, visited Beijing to meet with Wu Dawei, his Chinese counterpart.

Kim is the special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Wu is the special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs at China’s Foreign Ministry.

During the meeting, Kim and Wu reportedly discussed Ri Su-yong’s visit to China and his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping along with the situation on the Korean Peninsula following the US and China‘s strategic and economic talks.

Ri is vice chairman of the political affairs bureau of the central committee of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP), which is North Korea‘s ruling party.

By Yi Yong-in and Kim Oi-hyun, Washington and Beijing correspondents

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

 

 

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