The Chinese Foreign Ministry is claiming that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel is backing China’s proposal for a ‘double-freeze’ as a route out of the Korean crisis.
China’s ‘double freeze’ proposal requires North Korea to freeze is ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme in return for the US freezing the military exercises it routinely carries out on the Korean Peninsula with South Korea. Once the ‘double-freeze’ is in place China proposes that North Korea and the US begin direct talks as away to achieving a peace treaty – which would bring the Korean war to a formal end – and the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
The US has rejected China’s ‘double freeze’ proposal. North Korea also says it has rejected it but has regularly hinted that it would reconsider if the US were to signal it would accept it. The obstacle to implementation of China’s ‘double freeze’ proposal therefore appears to lie in Washington.
Russia – China’s key geo-strategic ally – strongly backs China’s ‘double freeze’ proposal, which is therefore often spoken of as a joint Chinese-Russian proposal though in reality it originates in Beijing. However if Germany really is backing China’s ‘double freeze’ proposal then it would be the first major US ally to do so.
Gabriel is supposed to have signalled Germany’s support for China’s ‘double freeze’ proposal in a telephone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. RT has provided a translation of the Chinese text of the readout of the conversation as provided by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. According to this Gabriel’s comments to Wang Yi were as follows
[Germany] understands and endorses the ‘double freeze’ initiative, and is willing to continue to work with Beijing to promote a peaceful settlement of the DPRK [North Korea] nuclear issue. Germany appreciates the important role China plays in tackling the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula
That Germany would support the Chinese ‘double freeze’ proposal is not intrinsically unlikely. Though German Chancellor Angela Merkel is often considered a staunch Atlanticist, she has also been a strong supporter of close political and economic ties between Germany and China. In addition German public opinion has shown increasing signs of alarm at the belligerent rhetoric which has recently been coming out of Washington, and with parliamentary elections due in Germany in September it is not intrinsically unlikely that both wings of the German governing coalition – Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the SPD of which Sigmar Gabriel was recently the leader – might wish to give a public show of support to a peace initiative apparently intended to end the Korean crisis, which is causing alarm in Germany.
Germany is not a major player in the Korean crisis. However it is the US’s most important ally. At the time of the Iraq war in 2003 there was great dismay in Washington that Germany under the then SPD led government of Gerhard Schröder publicly opposed the US attack on Iraq, aligning itself during that crisis with China and Russia.
Though Chancellor Merkel has since sought to avoid another such public clash with Washington, with US-German relations under strain ever since Donald Trump became President there will be concern that the same thing does not happen again, and this will increase the pressure on the US to look for a diplomatic solution.