World leaders unite against North Korea

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World leaders unite against North Korea

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Left: Korean President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday before a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. Right: Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, greets U.S. President Barack Obama, center, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, after a trilateral meeting in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS,NEWSIS]

WASHINGTON — North Korea faced unprecedented pressure Thursday to give up its nuclear arms program, as China promised South Korea and the United States to fully implement economic sanctions to punish the Kim Jong-un regime.

The diplomatic marathon on ending the North’s nuclear and missile programs took place throughout Thursday before the global leaders started their official schedule for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. Leaders of South Korea, China, Japan and the United States held a series of bilateral and trilateral summits to coordinate their moves to end the North’s atomic weapons program.

President Park Geun-hye met with Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday afternoon for 80 minutes. It was their first meeting since North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range missile firing in February.

“It served as a meaningful opportunity to strengthen communication between the two countries on the North Korean nuclear issue,” Kim Kyou-hyun, senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security, said.

“Park stressed that thorough implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution [adopted in March] is the key to change the North’s attitude. Xi replied that China will fully and completely implement the sanctions. The two leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation to this end.”

Xi stressed to Park that China actively participated in the UN resolution, rather than repeating its practice of abstaining from the vote, a senior official at the Blue House said. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 was adopted unanimously on March 2 and is the toughest-ever international attempt to curb the financing of Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction programs.

It is the first time that Xi, with his own voice, expressed his intention to enforce the sanctions,” a senior Blue House official said. “The tone was fairly strong.

“Even after China supported the UN resolution, there were lingering skepticism in the international community that it will be just words not action,” a Korean Foreign Ministry official said. “But this time, Xi made clear that it’s not. A Chinese state leader’s position is made public after collecting opinions of the party. So this is a serious.”

Kim also said Park made it clear to Xi that the North will face grave consequences from the international community should it stage additional provocations. Speculation has grown that the North is preparing another nuclear test, as the Communist regime has fired a series of missiles over the past few months.

China’s Foreign Ministry also announced that Xi told Park all countries must fully and thoroughly implement the resolution. According to Beijing’s statement, Xi said dialogue and negotiation are the only proper ways to resolve the nuclear crisis, and he told Park that China will make constructive efforts to resume talks within the six-party negotiations.

Neither Seoul nor Beijing clearly stated whether Xi mentioned China’s recent push for parallel talks on denuclearization and a peace negotiation to end the Korean War armistice. The Blue House’s statement on the summit only said the two leaders exchanged opinions on the future of the Korean Peninsula. When asked about the peace treaty issue, a senior presidential official avoided answering the question.

At the summit, Park also tried to recover the recent fissure in Korea-China relations by stressing that Seoul attaches great importance to cooperation with Beijing.

Frustrated by Beijing’s inaction to use its influence on Pyongyang, Park said in January that Seoul was considering the deployment of a U.S.-led advanced missile shield in the South, instantly freezing ties with Beijing.

“When I attended the Victory Day ceremony in China in September, I remember seeing the phrase ‘Nothing is possible without trust’ during the presidential luncheon,” Park told Xi. “I believe the fundamental idea behind the strategic partnership between the two countries is mutual trust and respect.

“The North’s latest nuclear test and missile firing once again forced us to realize how important Korea-China cooperation is to the Korean Peninsula and the peace and stability of the region,” Park said. “I appreciate China’s playing a responsible role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.”

Ahead of his meeting with Park, Xi also met with President Barack Obama.

“Of great importance to both of us is North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, which threatens the security and stability of the region,” Obama said before the summit. “And President Xi and I are both committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and full implementation of UN sanctions. So we’re going to discuss how we can discourage actions like nuclear missile tests that escalate tensions and violate international obligations.”

Xi told Obama that the two countries have growing responsibilities to promote world peace, stability and prosperity, but they also have to work on their disputes. “On the basis of respecting each other’s core interests and major concerns, we should seek active solutions through dialogue and consultation,” he said in his opening summit remarks.

Following the summit, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which Xi said the latest sanctions on Pyongyang should be implemented in full.

Early Thursday morning, leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States held a series of bilateral and trilateral summits. Park and Obama held their bilateral summit first, and the trilateral meeting among Park, Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe followed. Obama and Abe also had a separate summit, and Park sat down with Abe to conclude the diplomatic marathon that ran for more than two hours and 30 minutes.

Following the trilateral summit, the three leaders addressed the media in a joint press conference to demonstrate their united front to pressure the North. Park said the meeting served as an opportunity for the three countries to seriously discuss what they should do together in order to stop the North from advancing its nuclear capability and change its feeble assessment of the situation.

She also expressed her hope that the trilateral summit will serve as a driving force to attract other countries’ cooperation in the region, presumably hinting at China. Park also issued a direct warning to North Korea that it will face stronger sanctions and isolation if it carries out any further provocations. She said the best way to end the North’s nuclear arms program is by thoroughly implementing the latest UN sanctions.

“By doing so, we must make the North realize that it cannot survive without giving up its nuclear weapons,” she said.

Park then said Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have agreed to closely coordinate their own sanctions on the North, in addition to the UN resolution.

At the media conference, Obama and Abe also said the trilateral meeting was a timely opportunity for them to address the North Korea issue. Obama expressed his satisfaction toward the recent improvement in relations between Seoul and Tokyo. He said South Korea and Japan, two major U.S. allies in Asia, will work on security cooperation and the United States will also participate in the effort.

“We’ve directed our teams to work diligently in the coming weeks and months to elaborate additional steps that we can take collectively in order to ensure that we have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and that we can restore a sense of stability and peace to the region,” Obama said.

Wrapping up the day, Park attended the reception and working dinner for the Nuclear Security Summit Thursday evening. The full session of the multilateral conference was scheduled to continue on Friday.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr ]
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