Are China, U.S. Losing Interest in N.Korean Nukes?

      November 13, 2014 13:12

      The North Korean nuclear standoff continues to slide down the priority lists of the international community. This was clearly evident during the APEC Summit in Beijing earlier this week.

      President Park Geun-hye duly met with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday and with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, and Xi and Obama sat down together on Wednesday. 

      But the statements that came out of those meetings between the countries that hold the key to resolving the issue failed to transcend standard diplomatic rhetoric. Park and Xi vowed to "strengthen efforts" to prod the North to abandon its nuclear weapons, while Park and Obama pledged "mutual cooperation" to denuclearize North Korea. The statements might have been lifted out of any press release in the last decade.

      It was no different after the China and U.S. summit. Xi and Obama "reconfirmed" their goal of achieving a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, and even that was only in reply to the question of a reporter.

      Of more pressing concern to Washington and Beijing are issues like measures to prevent a potential military clash between the two superpowers, the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and global warming.

      Xi did call for the speedy resumption of the stalled six-party nuclear talks, but it sounded dutiful rather than urgent.

      It has been six years since the last round of the six-way talks, the delay being mainly due to differences between the U.S. and China about the conditions that must be met to resume the dialogue. The U.S. says it can no longer trust North Korea, which has failed to live up to all previous pledges, and wants Pyongyang to take concrete steps to scrap its nuclear weapons first.

      That is a perfectly sensible request since the U.S. has been providing North Korea with hundreds of thousands of tons of heavy fuel and food while the reclusive state has continued to develop nuclear weapons. But China has been insisting that the six-party talks should resume before any pledges are made. 

      The U.S. and China have wasted years this way, and all that time North Korea has been busy developing its nuclear weapons and missile technology. Considering the seriousness of that situation, the comments by the leaders of South Korea, China and the U.S. during the APEC Summit were simply disappointing.

      Are they at all interested in solving this problem? South Korea has no choice now but to push the U.S. and China into moving more quickly. If they are stalling, then Seoul must take the lead and propose a way forward.

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