[EDITORIALS]It’s time for China to step up

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[EDITORIALS]It’s time for China to step up

The South Korea-China summit to be held in Moscow on Sunday seems to offer a crucial turning point in the North Korean nuclear issue. Both China and South Korea have pursued a diplomatic solution through negotiation, rather than put pressure on the North. But the situation is close to becoming an emergency, and considerable attention will be given to what President Roh Moo-hyun and Chinese President Hu Jintao decide.
As North Korea continues to resist pressure, the United States is considering pursuing sanctions by referring the issue to the United Nations Security Council. It looks as though the possibility of preventing the North from arming itself with nuclear weapons is almost gone.
For a peaceful resolution, the only country left to rely upon is China. Because it supplies more than 80 percent of North Korea’s oil and food, it has influence over the country. Therefore, the key to a solution lies, to a large extent, with China’s attitude.
We wish that China would make use of these circumstances. Beijing has consistently maintained that its position is one of “zero tolerance” for a nuclear-armed North Korea, and of a diplomatic solution through the six-way talks. China also issued a warning to Kim Jong-il with the statement, “Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is not only beneficial for both Koreas, but conforms to the interests of China.”
But the situation is developing to the point where even China finds it difficult to persuade the North, because Pyongyang’s aspirations to be recognized as a nuclear state are so strong.
And so China’s appeasement policy toward North Korea has led to deadlock. If China really intends to keep the North from having nuclear weapons, then it must exercise its influence, because it is the only country that has the means to punish Pyongyang. Otherwise, its “zero tolerance” policy is nothing but diplomatic rhetoric.
In this regard, the South Korea-China summit is a significant meeting. Seoul should use the occasion to clarify its position that North Korea cannot have nuclear arms, and should ask China to use its influence on the North. Possession of nuclear arms by North Korea is against China’s interest, because it will induce Japan to seek them as well. If China takes a lukewarm position, then Seoul has to make it clear to Beijing that there is no choice left but to refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
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