[Editorial] S. Korea should take a note from US-China tactical compromise

Posted on : 2023-11-17 16:46 KST Modified on : 2023-11-17 16:46 KST
Yoon should take advantage of the diplomatic leeway afforded by the “tactical compromise” by the US and China
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden sit down for a summit at the Filoli estate near San Francisco, California, on Nov. 15. (Reuters/Yonhap)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden sit down for a summit at the Filoli estate near San Francisco, California, on Nov. 15. (Reuters/Yonhap)

In their first meeting in a year, the leaders of the US and China agreed to reopen lines of communication between their two militaries. The two powerful countries reached a “tactical compromise,” agreeing to dial back their recent aggression and work to manage relations, at least for now. But the two leaders also confirmed that they have no intention of compromising on key issues, including Taiwan and cutting-edge technology.

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to resume contacts between their two militaries and to discuss regulations on artificial intelligence during a four-hour meeting at the Filoli estate, near San Francisco, on Wednesday.

Restoring the lines of military communication that were severed after then-US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022 repairs a mechanism for preventing unintended clashes in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

While Biden and Xi have often butted heads in the past, they made conciliatory gestures during this summit, in a nod to the domestic situations in their respective countries. Biden needs to keep the economy humming, with the next presidential election just one year away. Meanwhile, Xi needs to improve relations with the US to boost the Chinese economy, which is currently struggling with unemployment and sluggish growth even after China repealed its “zero-COVID” policy.

But what has become even clearer is that neither country is willing to give an inch on key issues such as Taiwan and cutting-edge technology. On the issue of Taiwan, Xi said that reunification is inevitable, while also complaining about the US’ “technological pressure” on China and asking the US to ease its restrictions on high-tech exports to China. Biden reaffirmed that the US won’t provide China with technology that can be used against it.

Although both leaders stressed that they don’t want clashes or altercations, long-term competition and conflict will continue.

As the arms race accelerates and the world order is weakened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which will soon enter its third year, and by unrest in the Middle East driven by Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip, it is the duty of the US and China to cooperate on maintaining peace and order in the world.

While South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has been focusing his diplomatic efforts on bilateral cooperation with the US and trilateral cooperation with the US and Japan, he needs to take advantage of the diplomatic leeway afforded by the US and China’s “tactical compromise” to step up efforts to tackle the national security and economic challenges facing Korea. It’s time for Yoon to revise his foreign policy strategy, which has basically disregarded relations with China.

And considering that the North Korean nuclear issue hardly even came up in the US-China summit, Koreans ought to give more thought to what kind of roadmap is needed to resolve that issue, which is South Korea’s greatest national security challenge.

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