China’s Refusal to Condemn N. Korea Stalls UN Talks

China’s opposition has stalled negotiations on a statement by the United Nations Security Council condemning North Korea’s expanding nuclear program and its attack on a South Korean island, Japan’s ambassador said.

“The Chinese have always been resistant” to directly accusing North Korea of wrongdoing, Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida said in an interview. “This is always the argument.”

As the Security Council remains deadlocked, President Barack Obama’s top military adviser called on China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to end its “deeply destabilizing behavior” and the U.S. prepared for high-level talks next week with South Korea and Japan.

The diplomatic efforts show the challenges the U.S. and its allies confront in easing tensions in Korea without China’s intervention. “China shares a relationship with the North that is not matched anywhere else in the world,” Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Center for American Progress in Washington today.

“Given the aid and support China has provided to North Korea over the years, there’s significant leverage they could apply to avoiding escalation and improving this troubling situation,” Mullen said.

Foreign Ministers Meet

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet in Washington on Dec. 6 with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan and Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, the State Department announced. The meeting “demonstrates the extraordinarily close coordination” among the countries and their “commitment to security on the Korean peninsula and stability in the region,” the State Department said.

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, and Choe Tae Bok, head of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, met in Beijing today, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. Wu and Choe, who have met three times this year, pledged to “cement legislative ties” between the two countries, Xinhua said, without mentioning the current tensions.

While Nishida said he didn’t “dare to say” talks in New York were dead on having the Security Council’s 15 member governments collectively respond to North Korea’s actions, British and Russian envoys said an accord wasn’t likely.

“It doesn’t look like it,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, citing “some problems” in private bilateral talks that followed North Korea’s announcement of a new plant to enrich uranium and a Nov. 23 artillery attack on the South Korean island.

No ‘Weak Response’

“We are not prepared to have a weak response by the council,” U.K. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said. “There are serious violations on the nuclear side, and the shelling should be condemned if we are to make any statement at all.

“It is disappointing because the Security Council ought to be in a position to respond to these sorts of incidents that are clearly a threat to international peace and security,” Lyall Grant said. “But the Security Council operates by unanimity when it comes to these kinds of statements and there wasn’t any.”

It took the Security Council almost four months earlier this year to agree on a response to the March 26 sinking of the South Korea warship Cheonan that didn’t explicitly condemn North Korea. The statement condemned the attack without accusing North Korea and took “note” of North Korea’s denial of complicity.

A multinational investigation reported in June that a North Korean-made torpedo caused the sinking, killing 46 sailors.

‘Stakes Are Going Up’

“They sank a ship, killed 46 sailors, they killed four Korean citizens the other day,” and showed foreign experts a uranium enrichment facility, Mullen said. “The ante is going up and I think the stakes are going up, and I think the stakes in terms of stability in the region are going up.”

Yang Tao, political director of China’s mission to the UN, said his government was still considering proposed language of a Security Council statement on the latest incidents and that consultations haven’t ended.

Yang said in an interview yesterday that China favors handling tensions on the Korean peninsula in the format of the six-party talks that include China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Russia and the U.S. China has called for an “emergency” meeting of that group.

The U.S., Japan and South Korea haven’t agreed to China’s proposal, saying they want to see more concrete action by North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program before restarting the talks. Churkin said Russia was open to the six-party proposal, calling it a “positive” initiative by China.

“Beijing’s call for consultations will not substitute for action,” Mullen said. “I do not believe we should continue to reward North Korea’s provocative and deeply destabilizing behavior with bargaining or new incentives.”

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