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Inspection from China-Comprehender: China adopts conciliatory tones – but there is a clear calculation behind it

The foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea and China have met for the first time in four years. The three countries are closely connected economically and together account for approximately 25% of the global gross domestic product.

At the same time, South Korea and Japan are concerned about China’s aspirations to become a military hegemon in the region. Like many other actors in the region, Tokyo and Seoul have therefore strengthened their alliance with the United States and increased their military spending.

Beijing’s ruler Xi Jinping did not like that at all; he claimed that the United States was encircling the People’s Republic.

The opposite is true: because Xi is acting aggressively in the South China Sea, threatening Taiwan with an invasion, and supporting the North Korean Stone Age regime in Pyongyang, the allies of the USA have come closer together. Even the establishment of an “Asian NATO” could ultimately be the result of Xi’s botched foreign policy.

Xi and China need foreign countries

The dictator must have realized that his so-called “wolf warrior diplomacy” was a colossal mistake. Especially now, when the People’s Republic is economically weakened, the nomenclature needs foreign countries.

Even at his meeting with US President Biden in mid-November in San Francisco, the autocrat struck a more conciliatory tone.

The meeting in Seoul now builds on this first, delicate plant of verbal disarmament. The tensions between Japan and South Korea on one side and the People’s Republic on the other are of course not blown away by this.

So far, there is also no indication that Xi’s outward rhetorical shift will actually result in a substantial change in Chinese policy and that there could be a sigh of relief from Taipei to Canberra. But in the world of diplomacy, such encounters as the one in Seoul contribute to a “fund of goodwill.”

There is more than benevolence behind China’s diplomacy

Perhaps, alongside the signs of goodwill, now is also a favorable moment for Japan and South Korea to sustainably influence China’s course.

Therefore, the issue of North Korea was also on the agenda during the approximately 100-minute meeting of the three diplomats, just a few days after Pyongyang successfully placed a surveillance satellite into orbit.

Japan and Korea condemned the state and called on the People’s Republic to play a “constructive” role in the denuclearization of North Korea. A concrete outcome of the meeting of the three foreign ministers is the declaration to organize a meeting of the three presidents.

However, Beijing’s interest in this meeting is likely not due to any newfound mildness of an aging dictator, but rather to the desire to prevent closer cooperation between Japan and South Korea with the USA.

Because that would mean a greater military presence in the region. Whether Xi’s calculation pays off is uncertain.

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