China, South Korea Seek Cooperation in Disarming North Korea

  • North Korea warns of war over South's propaganda broadcasts
  • South Korea calls for coordinated international sanctions

China urged a return to disarmament talks with North Korea in response to South Korea’s call for tougher sanctions after Kim Jong Un’s regime conducted its fourth nuclear test.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se by phone on Friday that efforts should be made to pave the way for negotiations on nuclear arms in North Korea, according to a text message from South Korea’s foreign ministry on Saturday. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged China on Thursday to support a more aggressive approach with Pyongyang. The international community needs to coordinate on pursuing sanctions, Yun told Wang.

As North Korea’s biggest trading partner, the pressure is on China to rein in Kim as the country’s isolation, as well as its economic structure, make it difficult for sanctions to be effective. South Korea responded to Wednesday’s surprise nuclear test by resuming loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the demilitarized zone, a move that has pushed the Korean peninsula “toward the brink of war,” Yonhap News cited North Korean Workers’ Party Secretary Kim Ki Nam as saying at a rally.

“North Korea’s fourth nuclear test could become a true test of the collective will of the global community to deal with a common security challenge,” Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said in a report. “Escalation of a crisis with North Korea would likely open a Pandora’s box of difficult geopolitical, humanitarian and potentially military challenges.”

Tighter Sanctions

Each of North Korea’s three previous atomic tests has resulted in a tightening of international sanctions. As United Nations diplomats work toward a new Security Council resolution, the world is looking to China to get its unruly neighbor to return to disarmament talks that collapsed in 2009. 

“China had a particular approach that it wanted to make and we agreed and respected to give them the space to be able to implement that,” Kerry told reporters on Thursday. “But today in my conversation with the Chinese I made it very clear that has not worked and we cannot continue business as usual.”

The second nuclear test since Kim came to power four years ago may have angered China President Xi Jinping, who in October sent a high-ranking envoy to Pyongyang with a handwritten letter seeking deeper cooperation. China wasn’t informed in advance of the detonation and is “steadfast in its position that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearized,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

“Beijing’s concern is first and foremost about North Korea’s stability,” said Liu Ming, director of the Korean Peninsula Research Center at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “It didn’t, and still doesn’t want to see the regime collapse, which would cause unimaginable chaos on the borders.”

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