April 15, 2013 09:26
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Chinese officials that Washington is willing to reduce its missile defense system in Northeast Asia if North Korea scraps its nuclear weapons program.
The missile defense shield supported by Seoul and Tokyo has been a thorn in the side of Beijing, which is wary of the increased U.S. military influence in Northeast Asia.
Kerry's comments come amid increasingly belligerent threats from Pyongyang.
"Obviously if the threat disappears -- i.e. North Korea denuclearizes -- the same imperative does not exist at that point of time for us to have that kind of robust, forward leaning posture of defense,” Kerry told reporters Saturday. “And it would be our hope in the long run, or better yet in short run, that we can address that.”
Meeting with Chinese leaders, Kerry stressed that the missile shield targets North Korea rather than China, the New York Times reported.
As tensions mount on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. recently dispatched two Aegis naval vessels equipped with surface-to-air missiles and decided to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems in Guam. It also plans to station more interceptor missiles in Alaska. China has interpreted these moves as attempts to counter its own military influence in Northeast Asia.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a meeting with Kerry that a North Korean provocation would end up damaging the national interests of all countries involved in the nuclear standoff with the North, while having a negative impact on Pyongyang as well.
Li added that all of the countries involved are responsible for maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and must bear the consequences together. The comments were seen as a warning against further missile launches by North Korea.
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi also stressed the need to reconvene six-party talks as the "issue should be handled and resolved peacefully through dialogue and consultation."
It remains to be seen to what extent the two superpowers can work together in persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
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