Chinese Pressure To Halt North Korean Nuclear Test Increases

7 02 2013

Tsar_Bomba(6 February 2013, NKnews.ORG) With North Korea threatening to go beyond a third nuclear test in response to what it sees as “hostile” sanctions imposed after the December rocket launch, Chinese pressure to halt a North Korean nuclear test appears to be mounting at considerable pace.

Building on high level talks held yesterday between Washington and Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters today that Beijing is “extremely concerned by the way things are going…We oppose any behavior which may exacerbate the situation and [urge] relevant sides to exercise restraint and earnestly work hard to maintain peace.”

Chunying’s comments came following an agreement  yesterday that the U.S. and China would “work together” to deal with the pending nuclear test, made public after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and China’s Foreign Minister talked by phone for the first time since Kerry took office.

On the subject of the call, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that both China and the U.S. agreed that North Korea should face “further consequences” if it violates UN Security Council resolutions with another test. Nuland also emphasized that the conversation between the two were “remarkably similar” to ones Kerry had in previous days with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

Beyond publicized Sino-American rhetoric, a senior Seoul diplomat told Yonhap News that he was aware that China was making its “own efforts” to persuade North Korea to cancel the test, although he did not elaborate on what those efforts were. The diplomat also said that China was taking the nuclear test “seriously.”

Outside of the diplomatic realm, an editorial in the English language Global Times today detailed Chinese displeasure even further, warning that Pyongyang would pay a “heavy price” for a third nuclear test and that China should “shatter any illusions Pyongyang may have” about not being punished.

While the editorial did note that Beijing would unlikely support the type of heavy sanctions that the U.S. and South Korea will likely demand in the event of a test, it underscored that China should support “reduced assistance” to North Korea and said that, “if Pyongyang gets tough with China, China should strike back hard.”

But despite all of the increasing rhetoric, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov today NK NEWS that in reality China is probably not that concerned about a further nuclear test.

Beijing policymakers know better than anyone how to benefit from Pyongyang’s insecurity and increasing international isolation. More sanctions against the DPRK means better deals for Chinese entrepreneurs operating in North Korea and increased dependency of Kim Jong-Un’s regime on China’s security assurance. A nuclear armed and unmanageable Pyongyang poses no threat to China but keeps its regional competitors anxiously overspending on their own national defense and security.

However, Chinese experts quoted yesterday in the Hong Kong daily Ming Pao have different thoughts. Shen Dingli, Executive Deputy Dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Fudan University, said that the planned nuclear test and rocket launch had already harmed China’s core interests, and that Pyongyang should be prepared to “bear the consequences” and “prepare itself for tougher international sanctions.”

In the same report Fan Jishe, a researcher on U.S. studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, went further and criticized Pyongyang for “embarrassing China” and “impeding [the progress of] Sino-U.S. relations.” He also criticized North Korea for implicitly blaming China for its “blind obedience” to Washington in the recent United Nations condemnation of the December rocket launch.

Amid the increasing pressure, Yonhap News suggests that the North Korean media’s decision to avoid citing Chinese media or report on Chinese news in recent weeks shows a growing spat between two countries once regarded as being as close as “lips and teeth”.  A screening of KCNA, Rodong Sinmun, KCTV, Radio Pyongyang and Chosun Central TV showed that following the passage of the Chinese supported UN Security Council Resolution on Jan. 23, there had been almost no mention of China in the North Korean media.

Tensions between China and North Korea have been on the increase recently, with public disagreements bubbling over in areas even outside of the nuclear realm. Less than two weeks ago Pyongyang reportedly hit out at Beijing for allowing reports to circulate that Kim Jong Un may have had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather Kim Il Sung.

Some suggest that China is the most important party in efforts both to dissuade North Korea from conducting a nuclear test, though others suggest Beijing’s influence is much more limited than leaders in the U.S. and South Korea like to think.

China has been traditionally uncooperative in pushing North Korea too hard, officially due to worries over fanning political and further economic instability in its neighbor.

To date, Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, the first in 2006 and the second in 2009. Both times China ensured that sanctions on North Korea avoided inflicting too much economic damage.

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North Korea defiant as UN security council condemns rocket launch

29 01 2013

Image(by Tania Branigan in Beijing, The Guardian, 23 January 2013)

North Korea has vowed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent and other military capabilities after the United Nations security council condemned its latest rocket launch.

Analysts warned that the prospects of a third nuclear test by the regime had increased after its harsh response to the resolution, which extended sanctions against the North and expressed the council’s determination to take “significant action” against further missile or nuclear tests.

North Korea says it sent a satellite into orbit in December for peaceful and scientific purposes. But the council said it breached the ban on nuclear and missile activity, because the launch technology is near-identical to that required for long-range missiles.

China, which has veto rights as a permanent member of the council, agreed to Tuesday night’s resolution after sections were removed from an earlier draft. It has often blocked proposals for strengthened measures against its ally and neighbour in the past.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said the resolution “demonstrates to North Korea that there are unanimous and significant consequences for its flagrant violation of its obligations under previous resolutions”.

The security council reiterated its demand that the North cease further launches and end its nuclear weapons programme in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible manner”.

The angry response from Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said the North “should counter the US hostile policy with strength, not with words” and warned it would “bolster the military capabilities for self-defence including the nuclear deterrence”.

“There can be talks for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” it added.

The statement “considerably and strongly hints at the possibility of a nuclear test”, the analyst Hong Hyun-ik, of the private Sejong Institute thinktank near Seoul, told Associated Press.

The North tested nuclear devices shortly after rocket launches in 2006 and 2009, and last month the 38 North blog said analysis of satellite photos showed continued activity at a nuclear test site.

But Yang Moo-jin, of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Reuters: “North Korea will likely take a sequenced strategy where the first stage response would be more militarily aggressive actions like another missile launch.”

Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea at the University of Sydney, said the resolution was “not helpful”.

He said: “It is just a sign of frustration. Diplomacy doesn’t work, military threats simply turn it into a worse situation, and nobody is prepared to give way in this standoff.”

He added: “Sticks without carrots do not work. A combination of sanctions with the prospect of engagement would be much more conducive to resolving the situation.

“North Korea does not want to abandon its nuclear programme. They have to develop it further, which means more tests … It looks like after the resolution, the nuclear test is now looming sooner rather than being postponed.”

He said there were hopes that Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s incoming president, would bring a “more pragmatic, less ideological and more stable” policy towards the North than that adopted by her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who ended Seoul’s “sunshine policy” of engagement and aid.

But Daniel Pinkston, the north-east Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, warned that if a nuclear test went ahead, “any ideas or initiatives that she is thinking about or planning will pretty quickly become impossible”.

He added: “As far as sanctions achieving the intended outcome, I don’t see that happening. The people named are national heroes from the North Korean perspective.”

While Rice said the resolution introduced new sanctions, others argued it had only extended previous measures, so that more government bodies and individuals – such as the space agency and the man who runs it – will have their assets frozen and face a global travel ban.

Li Baodong, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, described the resolution as “generally balanced”, the state news agency Xinhua reported. He noted that measures which China believed would jeopardise normal trade had been removed.

He added: “Sanctions and resolutions alone do not work. Resolutions must be completed and supplemented by diplomatic efforts.”

The six-party aid for disarmament talks stalled in 2009 and a deal with the US – which would have placed a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food – collapsed after the North carried out an unsuccessful rocket launch in April last year.





North Korea Threatens To Build Up “Nuclear Deterrence”

24 01 2013

nkorea_nuke_threat(North Korea reacts angrily to UN Resolution 2087, NKnews.org  23 January 2013 )North Korea reacted bitterly to yesterday’s UN resolution condemning its December satellite launch, pledging to strengthen both military and nuclear capabilities.

In a swift rejection of the U.N. warnings,  North Korea today said that it will take “physical counteraction” to bolster its “nuclear deterrence both qualitatively and quantitatively.”

The defiant statement from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry came just hours after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning rocket launch as a violation of an existing ban against nuclear and missile activity.

UN Security Council Resolution 2087 imposes sanctions on North Korea’s space agency, targets the illicit smuggling of sensitive items and updates a list of nuclear and ballistic missile technology prohibited for transfer in or out of the country. It also reiterates that a peaceful, diplomatic and political resolution to relevant issues should be sought, and advocates the resumption of the Six-Party talks.

While today’s wasn’t the first time that North Korea has issued such angry rhetoric following a UN Resolution, under the new leadership of Kim Jong Un it throws a direct challenge to both newly inaugurated President Obama and incoming South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Reacting to the news today, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov said,

It is regrettable that after the sixty years of confrontation both the UNSC and the DPRK are still locked in the security dilemma and prefer to exchange invectives and threaten the region with prospects of resuming the Korean War. Despite the “generally balanced” tone of the recent UNSC resolution on North Korea, warnings to take “significant action” will only lead to promises “to boost and strengthen defensive military power”.

More sanctions will only lead to less dialogue because sticks work only when carrots are also on the offer. In the situation where military action is inconceivable and diplomacy does not work, the usage of soft power might be more useful.

Following Obama’s 2008 arrival at the White House North Korea conducted a rocket launch similar to the latest one and when similar UN sanctions were applied, quickly followed it with a nuclear test. At a time when Obama had promised an “open hand” to North Korea, Pyongyang’s one-two blow undermined the prospects for any short-term engagement between Washington and Pyongyang.

Having shown a visiting U.S. delegation advanced uranium enrichment capabilities in late 2010, it has long been worried that any new nuclear test would seek to showcase the latest technologies. As such, any third nuclear test could risk Pyongyang showcasing a uranium based weapons technology to demonstrate advances in bomb-making.

Yonhap today reported that reacting to the warning, South Korea has stepped up monitoring of tunnels at North Korea’s nuclear weapons test site in its northeast. And citing recent satellite imagery, Seoul intelligence officials said Pyongyang “is ready to detonate a nuclear device on a few days notice, but the decision to go ahead with the test will be a political one.”

A senior U.S. envoy arriving in South Korea for talks with South Korean officials warned that another nuclear test would be a “mistake”. Glyn Davies explained to Kyodo News, ”We think that would be a mistake. We call on North Korea not to engage in any further provocations.”

To date, Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, the first in 2006 and the second in 2009.

The U.S. and North Korea’s neighbors fear Pyongyang’s ultimate goal is to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could target the west coast of the U.S., but it is not believed to have mastered the technology yet.

North Korea argues that it needs nuclear weapons to deter what it views as a “hostile” U.S. policy and long-range rocket technology so it can launch satellites into space.





N.Korea Tensions Overshadow Asian Security Forum

18 07 2010

By Ian Timberlake Ian Timberlake (AFP, Jul 15, 2010)

HANOI (AFP) – Tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship will overshadow the Asia-Pacific’s largest security forum when it convenes in Vietnam next week, diplomats and observers said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join her counterparts from 27 countries and blocs including China, Russia and the European Union for the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Friday.

South Korea has said it wants the forum to condemn North Korea for a torpedo attack which broke the corvette in two in March with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang vehemently denies the allegations and says it is ready to retaliate. […] Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates will pay their respects to the dead South Korean sailors during a visit to Seoul’s war memorial on Wednesday, two days before the Hanoi meeting.

The allies also plan a naval exercise as a show of strength. They are still deciding where to hold the drill, originally planned for the Yellow Sea, following protests from China. Vietnam said North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun was expected to attend the ARF talks, which also include US allies Australia and Japan. Permanent Security Council members China and Russia ensured the UN’s July 9 statement was “very soft and indirect,” contrary to what Washington and Seoul had urged, University of Sydney Korean studies lecturer Leonid Petrov said.

China and Russia have not publicly accused the North of sinking the warship, despite an investigation by the United States, South Korea and other countries which found strong evidence of a North Korean torpedo attack. Diplomats and analysts said that while the ARF is likely to comment on the sinking of the Cheonan — possibly by referring to the UN statement or using similar language — it was unlikely to blame Pyongyang.

Communist Vietnam, which will chair the meeting, has major business links with South Korea but sees the North as an ideological ally. “Hanoi will try not to antagonise Pyongyang unnecessarily but also should not shy away from some comment,” said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS research institute in Hawaii.

International Crisis Group analyst Daniel Pinkston said he expected the foreign ministers gathered at the forum to find a way to play down the issue, “considering the format and decision-making process at the ARF”. The UN statement gives the forum “a plausible reason for avoiding it”, he said…

…In the wake of the UN’s statement, nuclear-armed North Korea said it was willing in principle to return to multilateral disarmament talks which it abandoned last year. North Korea can be expected to make more efforts at the ARF to “mend bridges” with Washington and perhaps Seoul, while believing it can “continue extorting concessions and aid,” Petrov said. “But it’s not going to lead anywhere unless North Korea undertakes a major reform. Pyongyang doesn’t understand this,” he said.

See the full text of the article here…





Two Koreas Hold Opposite Views of UNSC Statement

13 07 2010

The Dong-A Ilbo (July 12, 2010)

The two Koreas have conflicting interpretations of a U.N. Security Council presidential statement condemning North Korea’s attack on the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said Saturday, “We take note of the statement saying pending issues on the Korean Peninsula are encouraged to be peacefully addressed through direct dialogue and negotiations via appropriate channels.” “We will make consistent efforts to reach a peace agreement and achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the six-party talks.”

[…] Experts say Pyongyang’s comments convey the North’s desire to close the matter as soon as possible and seek a peace agreement through the six-party talks.

On this, a high-ranking government official in Seoul said, “Only when the North either apologizes for the Cheonan incident or admits fault and shows a commitment to denuclearization will the six-party talks be resumed.” “We must at least address what must be addressed. In resuming the six-party talks, sincerity and trust are the most important.”

The difference of positions between the two Koreas originates from contrasting interpretations of Article 10 of the presidential statement. The article says the Security Council encourages resolution of pending issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula to facilitate early resumption of direct dialogue and negotiations.

Seoul interprets this as the resolution of pending issues (the Cheonan incident) should be preceded before dialogue and negotiations, but Pyongyang claims that the pending issues should be dealt with through dialogue and negotiations.