Kurt Campbell: China could take a heavier hand on North Korea

Posted on : 2013-05-01 16:26 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Former US assistant Secretary of State says China will maintain its basic policy, but could use its influence to pressure Pyongyang
 former US assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs
former US assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs

By Park Byong-su, staff reporter

“China perceives that North Korean provocations do not aid its strategic interests,” said Kurt Campbell, former US assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, on Apr. 30. “I believe that they will take a heavier hand in their dealings with North Korea than they have in the past.”

Campbell, who oversaw US policy in Asia and the Pacific during US President Barack Obama’s first term in office, made the remarks in a press conference held at the Hyatt Hotel in Seoul.

“While China probably will not entirely change its North Korea policy, it will alter it partially,” he said.

Since leaving the US Department of State at the beginning of 2013, Campbell founded a consulting company named the Asia Group, where he is currently serving as chairman. He was in South Korea to attend the Asan Plenum 2013, organized by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

In the past, there was some ambiguity concerning what the objective of North Korea’s nuclear program might be,” Campbell said. “But now, as North Korea’s objective to possess nuclear weapons and missiles becomes clear, China has started to worry about the North’s intentions.

"We need to push China to put pressure on North Korea,’ he said.

Campbell’s remarks are being seen as falling in line with the argument that has been made in the US recently about the role that China should play in the North Korean situation.

Shen Dingli, associate dean of the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University, who was presenting at the symposium, met with a Hankyoreh reporter to talk about this issue.

"If North Korea makes some kind of provocative move, China can exert pressure," Shen said. "However, it is also necessary to ask why the North is engaging in bad behavior. North Korea is developing nuclear weapons because of security concerns. Because of this, the only way it will be possible for the North to give up nuclear weapons is if its safety is guaranteed."

Shen suggested that one way to guarantee North Korea’s safety would be for China to promise to provide the support detailed in the 1961 Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty only in the event that North Korea was invaded.

In regard to how the recent situation at the Kaesong Industrial Complex might affect relations between the North and South, Campbell said, "It is important that no hasty decisions be made," emphasizing a long-term view. "Rather than a uniform and generalized conclusion, it is necessary to wait and see whether North Korea is ready to engage in dialogue."

Campbell called on the South to take charge of the situation. "While until now the US has often taken the leading role in relations with North Korea, in the future, South Korea needs to take more of a role," he said.

He also emphasized the importance of inter-Korean dialogue. "Popular opinion about the North might not be positive because of its repeated provocative actions. But if we are to solve these problems, we must leave open the door for dialogue to some extent."


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