China calls for N. Korea to back down

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Josh Lederman, Jim Gomez and Teresa Cerojano of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Carol Morello of The Wash­ing­ton Post; by Keith Zhai, Kam­biz Foroohar, An­dreo Calonzo, Mar­garet Talev, Di­tas Lopez and Hooyeon Kim of

MANILA, Philip­pines — A global pres­sure cam­paign on North Korea pro­pelled by new U.N. sanc­tions re­ceived a boost Sun­day from China, the North’s eco­nomic life­line, as Bei­jing called on its neigh­bor to halt its mis­sile and nu­clear tests.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion cau­tiously em­braced China’s ap­par­ent

co­op­er­a­tion, while putting it on no­tice that the U.S. would be watch­ing closely to en­sure it didn’t ease up on North Korea if and when the world’s at­ten­tion is di­verted else­where. But there were no signs the U.S. would ac­qui­esce to China’s call for a quick re­turn to ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea.

The diplo­matic wran­gling sought to build on the sweep­ing new sanc­tions passed by the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil a day ear­lier — the strong­est in a gen­er­a­tion, the U.S. said. As diplo­mats gath­ered in the Philip­pines for an an­nual re­gional meet­ing of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions, Trump was cheer­ing the move. He cited the “very big fi­nan­cial im­pact” of the sanc­tions against North Korea and noted that both China and Rus­sia had joined in the unan­i­mous vote.

On Sun­day, after a latenight con­ver­sa­tion with South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, Trump tweeted: “Just com­pleted call with Pres­i­dent Moon of South Korea. Very happy and im­pressed with 15-0 United Na­tions vote on North Korea sanc­tions.”

“It was a good out­come,” U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said in Manila.

South Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Kang Kyung-wha, sit­ting across the ta­ble from him, added: “It was a very, very good out­come.”

For the U.S., it was a long-awaited sign of progress for Trump’s strat­egy of try­ing to en­list Bei­jing’s help to squeeze North Korea diplo­mat­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi, meet­ing with North Korea’s top diplo­mat dur­ing the gath­er­ing in Manila, urged the North to “main­tain calm” de­spite the U.N. vote.

“Do not vi­o­late the U.N.’s de­ci­sion or pro­voke in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety’s goodwill by con­duct­ing mis­sile launch­ing or nu­clear tests,” Wang said.

He also said, “Of course, we would like to urge other par­ties like the United States and South Korea to stop in­creas­ing ten­sions.”

Tiller­son did not meet with North Korea’s en­voy, Ri Yong Ho.

Though China re­peated its call for the United States and North Korea to re­sume talks, the U.S. said that was still pre­ma­ture. And it re­jected yet again a Chi­nese call for the U.S. to freeze joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea in ex­change for the North halt­ing nu­clear de­vel­op­ment. Py­ongyang views the mil­i­tary ex­er­cises as re­hearsals for an in­va­sion.

“This kind of mo­ral equiv­a­lency that’s im­plied by the freeze for freeze, which is be­tween the North Kore­ans shoot­ing off mis­siles that are pro­hib­ited and our rea­son­ably de­fen­sive ex­er­cises that we un­der­take in our al­liance with the South Kore­ans to pro­tect them from these launches, is not a rea­son­able kind of a trade,” Su­san Thorn­ton, the top U.S. diplo­mat for Asia, said.

The U.S. warned that it plans to rig­or­ously mon­i­tor China’s com­pli­ance with the new penal­ties. Thorn­ton said Bei­jing has his­tor­i­cally co­op­er­ated with sanc­tions after fla­grant North Korean vi­o­la­tions, then slipped back over time.

“We want to make sure China is con­tin­u­ing to im­ple­ment fully the sanc­tions regime,” Thorn­ton told re­porters in Manila. “Not this kind of episodic back and forth that we’ve seen.”

Though Tiller­son has em­pha­sized the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s will­ing­ness to sit down with North Korea for ne­go­ti­a­tions, he’s said that won’t hap­pen un­til the North agrees to aban­don its nu­clear as­pi­ra­tions. Even with the new U.N. sanc­tions that are in­tended to drive North Korea back to the ta­ble, con­di­tions still aren’t ripe for talks, U.S. diplo­mats said.

Ja­panese For­eign Min­is­ter Taro Kono dis­missed calls for talks and said the sanc­tions should be given time to work, ac­cord­ing to com­ments read by spokesman Toshi­hide Ando at a brief­ing.

Tiller­son has point­edly stated sev­eral times that the United States does not seek regime change or a rapid re­uni­fi­ca­tion of the two Koreas, which have been in a state of sus­pended hos­til­ity since an ar­mistice was de­clared in 1953.

Wang, the Chi­nese en­voy, cast Ri’s pres­ence in Manila as a pos­i­tive, say­ing it en­abled him to “hear the voices from other sides.” Wang said that Ri “also has the right to share his opin­ions.”

Ri hasn’t spo­ken publicly since ar­riv­ing in the Philip­pines. But a com­men­tary in the North Korean rul­ing party’s Rodong Sin­mun news­pa­per said the U.S. had dis­re­garded the warn­ing the North sent with its in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests and was pur­su­ing “des­per­ate ef­forts” in the form of stepped-up sanc­tions.

“Now the U.S. main­land is on the cross­roads of life and death,” the com­men­tary warned.

SANC­TIONS’ EF­FECT

The new sanc­tions could cut off roughly one-third of North Korea’s es­ti­mated $3 bil­lion in an­nual ex­ports, os­ten­si­bly deny­ing the na­tion of funds for its weapons pro­grams. All coun­tries are now banned from im­port­ing North Korean coal, iron, lead and seafood prod­ucts.

The sanc­tions would also ban “the open­ing of new joint ven­tures or co­op­er­a­tive en­ti­ties with” North Korea, and it would cap the num­ber of North Kore­ans work­ing in other coun­tries at cur­rent lev­els. Ex­ist­ing joint ven­tures would be pre­vented from ex­pand­ing their op­er­a­tions.

“The price the North Korean lead­er­ship will pay for its con­tin­ued nu­clear and mis­sile de­vel­op­ment will be the loss of one-third of its ex­ports and hard cur­rency,” said Nikki Ha­ley, U.S. am­bas­sador to the U.N. “This is the most strin­gent set of sanc­tions on any coun­try in a gen­er­a­tion.”

Tiller­son and Kang said sanc­tions against North Korea aren’t in­tended to bring the coun­try down, but rather to lead to peace­ful de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

The U.S. drafted the sanc­tions res­o­lu­tion and ne­go­ti­ated it with China after North Korea’s un­prece­dented test of an ICBM in July and a fol­low-up test weeks later. Those tests sharply es­ca­lated U.S. fears that North Korea is a key step closer to mas­ter­ing the tech­nol­ogy needed to strike Amer­i­can soil with a nu­clear-tipped mis­sile.

As North Korea’s main ally and big­gest trad­ing part­ner, China’s role is cru­cial to pres­sur­ing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into halt­ing his weapons pro­gram.

Many an­a­lysts see the North Korean pro­gram as too ad­vanced for sanc­tions to make much dif­fer­ence, and they doubt the coun­try will ever com­pletely give up nu­clear weapons.

“You need deeper sanc­tions over a longer pe­riod of time, like years, be­fore you can see if North Korea changes its be­hav­ior,” said Thomas Byrne, pres­i­dent of the New York-based Korea So­ci­ety, a group that pro­motes un­der­stand­ing be­tween the U.S. and the Korean Penin­sula. “The sanc­tions will have an eco­nomic im­pact but lit­tle ef­fect on the strate­gic in­tent to de­velop bal­lis­tic mis­siles.”

De­spite deem­ing North Korea a top se­cu­rity threat, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has strug­gled to find a strat­egy that dif­fers sig­nif­i­cantly from what the U.S. has tried in the past. Aside from call­ing for more sanc­tions, Trump’s ap­proach has cen­tered on en­list­ing China and oth­ers to lessen ties to North Korea.

Trump’s ini­tial op­ti­mism about China’s will­ing­ness to help gave way to pub­lic ex­as­per­a­tion, with Trump say­ing Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping had “tried” but that it “has not worked out.” Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan float­ing po­ten­tial plans to pun­ish China for its trade prac­tices in what was widely per­ceived as a re­ac­tion to China’s in­ac­tion on North Korea.

But in re­cent days, the two pow­ers have started to pa­per over some of those dif­fer­ences. Bei­jing praised Tiller­son for declar­ing the U.S. wasn’t seek­ing regime change in North Korea. Trump has held off, for now, on the trade ac­tions. And China joined the 15-0 vote in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on the new sanc­tions.

“Who has been car­ry­ing out the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions con­cern­ing North Korea? It is China,” Wang said Sun­day. “Who bore the cost? It is also China.”

AP/BULLIT MAR­QUEZ

North Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Ri Yong Ho (left) and Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi end their meet­ing Sun­day in Manila, Philip­pines.

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