Focus shifts to China as North Korea tensions escalate

BEIJING Tue Nov 23, 2010 12:46am EST

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's tight bond with North Korea faced mounting pressure with the arrival on Tuesday of a U.S. envoy as Washington urges Beijing to use its influence over Pyongyang to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions.

The impoverished and isolated North depends heavily on its only major ally for economic and diplomatic support and its leader Kim Jong-il has visited China twice this year, in part to gain backing for the anointment of his son to eventually take over the family dynasty.

Those ties have become a sore-point with Washington after revelations that North Korea appears to have made big steps toward enriching uranium -- one pathway to making the fissile material needed for nuclear weapons -- possibly using technology that passed through or even originated in China.

A U.S. academic, Siegfried Hecker, who recently visited North Korea, said at the weekend that he had seen more than a thousand centrifuges for enriching uranium during a tour of the North's Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Sung Kim, a U.S. official dealing with North Korean issues, said in Washington D.C. on Monday that China's ties its chairing of stalled talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capability mean "they do have a special responsibility to deal with the challenges posed by North Korea."

The top U.S. envoy for the North Korean nuclear dispute, Stephen Bosworth, was due to travel from Tokyo to Beijing on Tuesday.

"Needless to say, we regard this development with great seriousness. We do not consider it a crisis but it is a very serious development," Bosworth told reporters in Tokyo.

"We believe that the North Koreans are in violation of a substantial number of international agreements that they have entered into and are in violation of U.N. council resolutions," he said.

North Korea has said it wants to restart six-party nuclear disarmament talks it abandoned two years ago. But Seoul and Washington have said the North must move forward with previous pledges to curtail its nuclear program.

China has urged returning to the nuclear disarmament negotiations but has also fended off calls from the U.S. and its regional allies to use it's vital food and energy aid to North Korea as a lever.

Beijing says Washington should be more flexible.

In recent years, Beijing has sought to strengthen relations and increased aid and investment to its poor neighbor, which it sees as a strategic buffer against the U.S. and its regional allies.

In early May, Kim Jong-il visited China on his first trip abroad since 2006. He visited again in late August, ahead of the emergence of his son, Kim Jong-un, as the favoured successor in the dynastic one-party regime.

"With China accelerating the scale and scope of their bilateral capacity-building activities in North Korea, it's difficult to see any sense of urgency in Pyongyang to resume diplomacy with Washington," said John Park of the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. who studies ties between China and North Korea.

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Paul Eckert and Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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Comments (3)
rayman18 wrote:
It is obvious that N. Korea is a major asset that China uses to keep us off balance. I am sure that the enlargement of their facilities is directly attributed to Beijing. I cannot imagine China permitting N. Korea to develop powerful weapons that one day soon might include a Hydrogen bomb unless they had a very substantial reason linked to this development. Could it be that in case of a one day showdown between the U.S and China they view N. Korea as their light brigade.

We seem to move from one potential enemy to the next, Russia as a threat is gone so now it is China’s turn but on a more sophisticated level. We talk in terms of friendship and trade while each day our militaries make strategic plans to wipe each other out just in case…..

When it concerns China, I belong to a different school of thinking. Having lived their and grown to love the Chinese people I believe we should actively engage in building real visible bridges of friendship between our two country’s. We a should get more of our young students interested in China and produce more Chinese speaking graduates. We could also electronically link up our High Schools with Chinese High Schools (a project I am trying to develop) with the goal of devolping a mutual understanding of each other on a human level rather then just to make them aware of what great products we have.

Nov 23, 2010 1:53am EST  --  Report as abuse
Lhpoggi wrote:
Rayman18 comments dated 11/23/2010 at 1:53 a.m. are intelligent and accurate based on my experiences with China and the Chinese people.

Other comments I have read following related topics from Reuters involving the recent N. Korea/S. Korea incident reflect fear based emotions, protectionist attitudes and inflexibility; all attributes that lead a country to war versus resolution.

Nov 23, 2010 8:19am EST  --  Report as abuse
finneganG wrote:
To hell with China. I’m tired of hearing of their inaction and lack of respect for the U.N. sanctions.

When South Koreans are killed, China calls for more flexibility from the United States. That is not a valid suggestions.

The leadership of North Korea is insane. This insanity needs a pill delivered in a brutal force-fed package down the throat of Kim Jong-dumb.

Nov 23, 2010 6:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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