U.S., China agree to solve North nukes 'in a peaceful way’

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U.S., China agree to solve North nukes 'in a peaceful way’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington and Beijing reached a decision to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program “in a peaceful manner.”

As part of his first Asian tour since he took office, Kerry visited China on Saturday and met China’s top leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, and sought China’s help to calm military tensions between the two Koreas, heightened by North Korea’s belligerent rhetoric against Seoul and Washington recently.

After having talks with State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, Kerry said at a press conference that both sides agreed on making joint efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

“We are able, the United States and China, to underscore our joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner,” Kerry said. “We also joined together in calling on North Korea to refrain from provocations and to abide by international obligations.”

Yang also said China clearly supports the disarmament of North Korea in peaceful ways.

“We maintain that the issue should be handled and resolved peacefully through dialogue and consultation,” he said at the same conference.

“China will work with other relevant parties, including the United States, to play a constructive role in promoting six-party talks and balanced implementation of the goals set out in the Sept. 19 joint statement of 2005.”

The Sept. 19 joint statement was signed at a six-party talk in 2005. In the statement, North Korea promised to abandon its nuclear weapons program and rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, in exchange for aid and guaranteeing its national security.

Seoul and Washington also reached an agreement on Friday to reaffirm the statement at the bilateral meeting between Kerry and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

According to South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, the allies agreed on four points, including: reaffirming the Korea-U.S. joint defense agreement; the importance of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula; the Park Geun-hye administration’s so-called trustpolitik; and if North Korea makes the right decision, the allies will start implementing the Sept. 19 joint statement.

The agreement came after weeks of warmongering from North Korea in response to tougher UN sanctions against the reclusive regime to punish its third underground nuclear weapons test in February and the successful satellite launch in December 2012.

As Washington and Beijing agreed on a peaceful solution for the North Korea issue, expectation grew that the tide would turn toward dialogue.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye expressed her will on Thursday to have a dialogue with the North to resolve matters regarding the Kaesong Industrial Complex and ease tensions.

However, Pyongyang yesterday turned down the proposals for a dialogue.

An unnamed spokesman for the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland issued a statement, released by the official Korean Central News Agency yesterday, lashing out at the ongoing Seoul-Washington war games.

“That is nothing but a despicable trick to disguise their confrontational identity,” the statement said. “If the South Korean government indeed has a will for dialogue, they should abandon their confrontational attitude,” it said.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry told reporters yesterday it will still continue to be watchful of further responses from the North, given the fact that the North’s spokesman said, “Whether a dialogue would be held or not depends on the attitude of the South.”

Observers say Pyongyang could attempt to tame the Park administration or just keep its brinkmanship to obtain more bargaining chips in the future.

Tensions are still high on the Korean Peninsula, as North Korea will celebrate today its anniversary of the birthday of founder Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

Still, observers in Seoul say that there have been no activities at a missile launch site in North Korea since Thursday. Pyongyang has warned that they were ready for a missile launch.

There has been increased activity near a rocket launch site in the past week, and the regime could test a nuclear device as well.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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