Wednesday 05 Aug 2020 | 03:44 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 05 Aug 2020 | 03:44 | SYDNEY

China in two minds about the 6PT


Raoul Heinrichs

3 April 2008 09:40

Greg Sheridan is right to be skeptical about the near-term prospects for turning the Six Party Talks into a more formal and permanent regional security institution. That the Talks have thus far failed to achieve North Korean denuclearization is perhaps less significant than Washington and Beijing’s capacity for engagement over shared interests. But, as Rory Medcalf points out, there are other practical impediments, not least of which is the exclusion of important actors such as India and ASEAN, and the elevated position such an institution would afford Pyongyang.

China’s willingness to engage in such an institution will depend on the degree to which it perceives such a mechanism as enhancing or constraining China’s regional freedom of action. On the one hand, a permanent multilateral institution may be a very enticing proposition to Beijing, given that it undercuts to Washington’s bilateral ‘hub and spoke’ architecture, and provides China with an institutional setting in which it could cultivate closer relations with Taiwan, South Korea and other regional actors.

On the other hand, it is no accident that China has most actively sought to engage with multilateral institutions in which the US is either peripheral or excluded altogether. Rudd’s prescription, then, for the creation of a Northeast Asian institution as a means of integrating US regional leadership into the multilateral security architecture might not be received so enthusiastically in Beijing.
Moreover, if China’s economic engagement and diplomatic overtures are part of a strategy to curtail US influence in the region by raising the cost to other regional actors of siding too closely with Washington, then an institution in which the US and China engage directly, insofar as it allays those regional fears, may well be determined by Beijing to be inimical to its interests.