U.S. Ambassador Says China Must Do More on N.Korea, Human Rights

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next ambassador to China, says Beijing must do more to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Locke told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, if confirmed, he will also raise concerns about China's human rights record.

Locke said while the United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China, such status brings with it new responsibilities. He called on China to do more to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program and discourage further provocative acts, a reference to the sinking of a South Korean warship and the shelling of a South Korean island in the disputed maritime waters of the Yellow Sea last year.

"China has a very unique role given its influence and ties with North Korea," Locke said. "We, obviously, urge China to do more to influence North Korea's behavior. I think the recent provocations by North Korea, and the reaction by the South, is giving China pause causing China to realize that it has to step up to defuse the situation to make sure that no further provocations occur, which then could result in retaliatory actions by South Korea."

Locke, the first Chinese-American to be nominated for that post, said China should use its regional influence as a source of security, stability and prosperity. He expressed concern about a recent UN Security Council report China has blocked that accused North Korea of violating international sanctions by selling ballistic missile technology and other nuclear-related items to Middle Eastern countries.

The report implies that the transfers passed through a neighboring third country, which some diplomats say was China. The report says one of the destinations of the banned goods was Iran. Both China and Iran have rejected the allegations.

The Commerce Secretary said, while there are areas of collaboration, there are areas of what he called "vigorous disagreement," including human rights where, he said, the United States has significant concerns about Beijing's recent actions.

"Especially the crackdown on journalists, lawyers, bloggers, artists and religious groups. The protection and promotion of liberty and freedom are fundamental tenets of U.S. foreign policy and, if confirmed, I will clearly and firmly advocate for upholding universal rights in China," Locke said.

He said the detention of artist Ai Weiwei raises many issues about China's commitment to building a society based on the rule of law.

Locke said he sees significant progress in addressing the U.S. trade imbalance with China, concerns about its currency and enforcement of intellectual property rights: "We've got to make sure that we monitor the progress in China," Locke said, "make sure they adhere to their commitments, whether it's on intellectual property. The Chinese have a campaign right now that's supervised by the State Council, Vice Premier Wang Qishan. That campaign has been extended to really ensure that government agencies and state-owned enterprises purchase legitimate software. But, we've got to monitor that. We're demanding and insisting on accountability and audits to make sure that the Chinese follow through."

Locke said China recognizes it must export less and focus more on domestic consumption, while the United States must export more. He said there is a great hunger and demand in China for American products and services. Locke said, if confirmed, one of his top priorities will be in helping U.S. companies do more business in China. 

And, he pledged to reach out to the Chinese people where he said there is an appetite for more freedom and democracy. Locke is expected to win easy confirmation in the Senate.

VOA News / May 28, 2011 09:20 KST