China Calls for Restraint on North Korea as UN Prepares to Meet

  • ‘China’s role is extremely important,’ Japan’s Suga says
  • Trump says the U.S. backs Japan ‘100 percent’ as Abe visits

N. Korea Launches Missile Test During Abe, Trump Meet

China’s foreign ministry opposed North Korea’s ballistic missile test and called on all sides to avoid escalating tensions ahead of an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.

“We will take a constructive and responsible part in the relevant discussion,” China foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing on Monday. “Every party should exercise restraint and jointly safeguard the regional peace and stability.”

Earlier in the day, Japan urged China to take action against North Korea after the missile test, the first provocation from Kim Jong Un’s regime since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. The emergency UN meeting will take place Monday night in New York, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.

Prior to taking office, Trump vowed to stop North Korea from acquiring the capability to strike the U.S. with a ballistic missile carrying a nuclear weapon. In a joint briefing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida after the latest test, Trump said the U.S. stands by Japan “100 percent.”

Trump’s administration is pushing forward with plans to deploy a missile-defense system known as Thaad in South Korea, a move opposed by China, North Korea’s primary ally since they fought together in the 1950s against American-backed forces. Beijing accounts for more than 70 percent of its neighbor’s trade, and also provides food and energy aid.

North Korea’s ability to put a miniaturized nuclear weapon on a missile has risen after the test on Sunday, Japan’s Suga said.

“As a permanent member of the Security Council and chair of the six-party talks, and as a country that accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, China’s role is extremely important,” Suga said Monday. “As the government, we’ll continue to push China for constructive involvement at various levels.”

North Korea’s nuclear program could be one area for the U.S. and China to find common ground early in Trump’s administration, according to policy recommendations released last week from a bipartisan group of 18 China specialists commissioned by Asia Society and the University of California at San Diego. Trump moved to ease tensions last week when he agreed to honor the One-China policy in a call with President Xi Jinping.

To read about Trump’s options for stopping North Korean missiles, click here.

Cooperation on North Korea “would be a significant way to help restore a sense of common cause in U.S.-China relations as the Trump administration gets started,” said Susan Shirk, a co-chair of the report who served in the State Department during the Clinton administration. “But even if we get there, and China applies greater pressure on Pyongyang, there is no guarantee that Kim will agree to negotiate away his nuclear and missile programs.”

South Korea’s military said the missile fired Sunday was believed to be an improved version of the mid-range Musudan model. The projectile flew 500 kilometers (310 miles) into its East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a text message.

North Korea fired at least 25 projectiles last year, according to the UN, which bans it from pursuing ballistic missile technology because it could be used to deliver nuclear warheads. Pyongyang also detonated two nuclear devices in 2016.

Kim said on Jan. 1 that his country was in the “last stage” of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, leading Trump to write on Twitter, “It won’t happen!” Trump didn’t give specifics of how he’d stop Kim’s missile development.

‘Fateful Decision’

The UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution in late November that tightened sanctions on North Korea, including cutting the country’s coal exports, after the regime conducted its fifth nuclear test in September. Australia, which co-sponsored the resolution, will consider further sanctions, it said in a statement on Sunday.

North Korea would probably develop its ballistic missile technology enough to pair with its nuclear weapons to reach the U.S. during Trump’s tenure, according to Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Either the U.S. gets the Chinese to help increase pressure on North Korea through sanctions, or Trump will have “a truly consequential decision,” he said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on Sunday.

“Trump is going to have to face a truly fateful decision about whether we’re prepared to live with that, a North Korea that has that capability against us, or we are going to use military force one way or another to destroy their nuclear-missile capability,” Haass said.

— With assistance by Yuki Hagiwara, and Kevin Hamlin

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