BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States said yesterday that China had agreed to help rid North Korea of its nuclear capability by peaceful means, but Beijing made no specific commitment in public to pressure its long-time ally to change its ways.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met China’s top leaders in a bid to persuade them to push reclusive North Korea, whose main diplomatic supporter is Beijing, to scale back its belligerence and, eventually, return to nuclear talks.
Visiting Beijing for the first time as secretary of state, Kerry has made no secret of his desire to see China take a more active stance towards North Korea, which in recent weeks has threatened nuclear war against the United States and South Korea.
Kerry and China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, said both countries supported the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
“We are able, the United States and China, to underscore our joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner,” Kerry told reporters, sitting next to Yang at a state guesthouse in western Beijing.
But North Korea has repeatedly said it will not abandon nuclear weapons which it described on Friday as its “treasured” guarantor of security.
Yang said China’s stance on maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula was clear and consistent, repeating phrasing used by the Foreign Ministry since the crisis began.
“We maintain that the issue should be handled and resolved peacefully through dialogue and consultation. To properly address the Korea nuclear issue serves the common interests of all parties. It is also the shared responsibility of all parties,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
“China will work with other relevant parties, including the United States, to play a constructive role in promoting the six-party talks and balanced implementation of the goals set out in the Sept. 19 joint statement of 2005.”
The United States and its allies believe the North violated the 2005 aid-for-denuclearization deal by conducting a nuclear test in 2006 and pursuing a uranium enrichment programme that would give it a second path to a nuclear weapon in addition to its plutonium-based programme.
Six-party aid-for-disarmament talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China, collapsed in 2008 when the North walked away from the deal.
Kerry declined to comment on what specifically China may do to push for a peaceful solution on North Korea, saying only that they had discussed all possibilities.
At a news conference in Seoul on Friday and in a US-South Korean joint statement issued yesterday, Kerry signalled the US preference for diplomacy, but stressed North Korea must take “meaningful” steps on denuclearization.
“We don’t want to get into a threat for threat or … some kind of confrontational language here. There’s been enough of that,” Kerry said in Beijing.
If North Korea got rid of its nuclear capabilities, then the United States would have no reason to maintain recently deployed defensive capabilities – such as a missile defence system sent to Guam – he said.
“Now, obviously, if the threat disappears, ie North Korea denuclearizes, the same imperative does not exist at that point in time for us to have to have that kind of robust, forward leaning posture of defence.”