Obama Urges China to Come Off the Fence

      June 29, 2010 09:00

      U.S. President Barack Obama urged China on Sunday to join international efforts to condemn North Korea over the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan. "I think there's a difference between restraint and willful blindness to consistent problems," Obama told reporters at the end of the G20 Summit in Toronto. "And my hope is that President Hu [Jintao] will recognize as well that this is an example of Pyongyang going over the line in ways that just have to be spoken about seriously -- because otherwise we're not going to be able to have serious negotiations with the North Koreans."

      Obama claimed he was "very blunt" when he spoke about the Cheonan incident during his meeting with Hu on Saturday. "This is not an issue where you've got two parties of moral equivalence who are having an argument. This is a situation in which you have a belligerent nation that engaged in provocative and deadly acts against the other," he said. "Our main focus right now is in the UN Security Council making sure that there is a crystal-clear acknowledgement that North Korea engaged in belligerent behavior that is unacceptable to the international community."

      Heads of states and governments and other dignitaries pose for a group picture after the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada on Sunday.

      The U.S. president called it "absolutely critical" that the international community sends "a clear message" to North Korea and that it will continue to step up pressure until the North "makes a decision to follow a path that is consistent with international norms." "I think it is a bad habit that we need to break to try to shy away from ugly facts with respect to North Korea's behavior in the interests of -- or under the illusion that that will somehow help to maintain the peace," he added.

      Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan also met with Hu during the G20 meeting and told the Chinese leader the sinking "was a threat against regional peace and security and cannot be accepted under any circumstances." Kan added the UNSC "must send North Korea a clear message."

      Meeting President Lee Myung-bak, Hu was quoted as saying, "I fully understand South Korea's position. Let's continue close consultations in the process of responding at the UN Security Council." Hu also said his government condemns and opposes any acts that destroy peace and security on the Korean peninsula. The comments echoed those of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in a summit with Lee last month.

      Lee was quoted by aides as telling Hu North Korea's continued provocation "poses a grave threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia" and "appropriate international cooperation is necessary to prevent a recurrence."

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