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A Fragile China-ROK Strategic Partnership

Authors: Scott A. Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, and See-won Byun, George Washington University
September 2011
Comparative Connections


High-level exchanges between China and South Korea's foreign and defense ministries appeared to recover momentum as the two countries marked their 19th anniversary of diplomatic relations on Aug. 24. The first China-ROK “strategic defense dialogue” was held in Seoul on July 27 following talks between Defense Ministers Liang Guanglie and Kim Kwan-jin in Beijing on July 15 and in Singapore on June 4 on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue. Foreign Ministers Yang Jiechi and Kim Sung-hwan met June 6 ahead of the Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers Meeting in Budapest and held another round of talks July 21 in Bali on the sidelines of ASEAN regional meetings. But efforts to consolidate the China-ROK strategic partnership have exposed policy differences over North Korea and the ROK alliance relationship with the US.

China and North Korea commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in July. Kim Jong Il visited China on May 20-26, holding talks with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. He returned Aug. 25-27 and met State Councilor Dai Bingguo in Heilongjiang province on his way back from a meeting in Siberia with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Kim's May visit was publicly revealed during bilateral talks between Premier Wen and President Lee on the sidelines of the fourth Trilateral China-ROK-Japan Summit in Tokyo. Communist Party of China (CPC) and DPRK counterparts held an unprecedented “strategic dialogue” ahead of the 90th anniversary of the CPC in June. China and North Korea also agreed to strengthen military cooperation during a visit by a Korean Peoples' Army (KPA) delegation to China on Aug. 25-26. China and North Korea's new joint economic projects have raised debate on the prospects for North Korean reform. DPRK denuclearization efforts remain stalled despite apparent increases in regional diplomatic efforts toresume the Six-Party Talks.

This article appears in full on by permission of its original publisher. It was originally available here.

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