Chinese officials recently accused South Korea and Japan of contributing to increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula after both nations made a pact to share defense intelligence this past Wednesday.
The agreement was seen by participants as a necessary countermeasure against the growing nuclear threat from Kim Jong-un‘s regime, which conducted its 6th weapons test in September, provoking widespread ire from the international community.
Under the new arrangement, South Korea and Japan will exchange more intel on regional security, including information about North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Geng Shuang, a spokesman from China’s foreign ministry criticized the intelligence pact as a product of Cold War rationale, arguing that it would only create more instability for the already “sensitive” situation facing the Korean peninsula.
Although Beijing has condemned North Korea’s nuclear program in the past, it remains a crucial supporter of the Hermit Kingdom’s authoritarian regime, retaining close diplomatic ties with North Korean leaders and providing key economic aid to the impoverished nation. If Kim Jong-un’s government were to collapse, a united Korea could create new competition for China and undermine its ability to comfortably exert its military and economic influence in East Asia. China fears that South Korea and Japan’s efforts to strengthen their military ties would increase the likelihood of such an undesirable scenario, and it is opposed to any build up measures outside of its own.
The intelligence deal is also causing anger in South Korea, where the pain of Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 still lingers in the public consciousness. Opposition leaders have already expressed their disapproval of the new agreement with Japan, arguing that the government is acting outside the consideration of popular sentiment. Adding to the contention is the current scandal surrounding President Park Geun Hye, who is being accusing of allowing her close friend and spiritual adviser Choi Soon Sil to abuse her connection with the president, exercising undue influence over Park’s decisions while in office and peddling funds for personal gain.
With impeachment procedures against Park already underway and US president-elect Donald Trump‘s recent promise to help defend South Korea, the haze of uncertainty surrounding North Korea’s nuclear predicament has yet to produce a predictable outcome. We’ll keep you posted as things develop though.
By Avery Davenport
[Images via Xinhua]
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat