Remains of Chinese soldiers killed in the Korean War will be returned to China by South Korea today.
This is the eighth such shipment following a 2014 repatriation agreement between the two countries. Prior to this agreement, remains had been repatriated through North Korea. However, North Korea halted this repatriation in 1997 when its relations with China cooled.
The resumption of repatriation symbolizes the ongoing diplomatic reconciliation between the two countries following a deterioration in relations over South Korea’s deployment of THAAD, a US anti-missile system. Relations between the two nations are complex; South Korea’s greatest existential threat is a Chinese client—North Korea—yet China is also the nation’s main trading partner.
Beijing’s fundamental goal on the Korean peninsula is to use denuclearization of North Korea as leverage to remove American troops and disrupt the anti-Chinese coalition. Good relations with South Korea are essential to this goal. Expect China to continue diplomatic overtures, including pushing for regular high-level security dialogues.
However, diplomatic reconciliation alone will be ineffective so long as Beijing remains unwilling to rein in North Korea, as, in the face of existential threat, South Korea will continue to invite further American presence onto its soil.
Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.
Connor is a Content Editor and Analyst on the Daily Brief team and a member of the Communications team. His primary research focus is Latin America