South Korea's Park Urges China to Help in Effort to Punish Kim

Reaction as North Korea Says It Successfully Tested First Hydrogen Bomb

People watch a television showing South Korea's president Park Geun Hye speaking after North Korea's nuclear test. With China being North Korea’s biggest trading partner and a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, Park is urging Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his influence to rein in Kim.

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
  • Park seeks to tap China ties that deepened in recent years
  • China has urged return to negotiations on North Korean nukes

South Korean President Park Geun Hye urged China to help punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test last week, calling for an unprecedented global response to stop Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Park’s comments at a televised news conference Wednesday came a day before South Korea’s nuclear envoy was scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing. Representatives from Japan, South Korea and the U.S. are set to meet separately in Seoul on Wednesday to discuss tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.

With China being North Korea’s biggest trading partner and a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, Park is urging Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his influence to rein in Kim. She offered a reminder of the deepening ties between the two nations since she took office in 2013, and of China’s open opposition to its impoverished neighbor’s development of nuclear arms.

“The best partner is one that holds your hand when you’re having a difficult time,” Park said at her presidential office. “China has repeatedly shown determination it won’t tolerate North Korea’s nuclear arms. I believe China knows well that North Korea’s fifth and sixth nuclear tests can’t be avoided and true peace and stability on the Korean peninsula can’t be guaranteed unless that determination turns into real necessary measures.”

Kim is seeking to use the momentum from the Jan. 6 test to develop stronger nuclear arms. On Tuesday, he called for an improvement in the “quality and quantity” of his country’s atomic weapons and praised the scientists responsible for creating the bomb that was detonated last week, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

Tensions on the peninsula have risen since North Korea tested the device that it claims was a hydrogen bomb. The government in Seoul has resumed propaganda broadcasts critical of the Kim regime in the demilitarized zone and the U.S. has flown a B-52 long-range bomber over South Korea in a show of force. North Korea’s official media have called the bomber mission a move that “pushes the situation to the brink of war.”

China’s Concerns

North Korea’s nuclear test -- the second since Kim came to power four years ago -- took place after China sent a high-ranking envoy to Pyongyang in October to seek to repair relations marred by the nuclear tensions. Still, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called last week for a return to disarmament talks to address the nuclear issue.

China is worried that a crackdown on North Korea may destabilize the Kim regime and lead to millions of refugees fleeing across China’s border, or that South Korea will absorb its northern neighbor, leaving a well-armed U.S. ally on its frontier.

“China’s basic stance is that the North Korean nuclear problem should be resolved through negotiations,” Cheong Seong Chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute near Seoul, said by text message. “It may be mistaken to expect that China will cooperate on severe sanctions given that South Korea and the U.S. are simply calling for pressure."

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