U.S., China Want Korean Peninsula Free of Nuclear Weapons

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing have reaffirmed the close ties between their countries and their determination to work together toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

In remarks delivered after their October 20 meeting in Beijing, Rice said both sides talked about “the importance of full implementation” of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, which she said will ensure that North Korea cannot transit and trade in dangerous, illegal materials related to its nuclear weapons program.  (See related article.)

Both sides, Li said through an interpreter, believe that China and the United States will benefit from working together toward “peacefully resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula through dialogue and negotiations.”  Li added,  “We hope that all the relevant parties will maintain cool headedness” and “adopt a prudent and responsible approach.”

Rice is in Asia to rally support for Resolution 1718 and coordinate its implementation.  The U.N Security Council unanimously adopted the Resolution October 14, after North Korea tested a nuclear device on October 9.

Beijing is Rice’s third stop after visits in Tokyo and Seoul, South Korea.  Her next stop will be Moscow.

Rice has been emphasizing that the international community can bring enough pressure to bear on Pyongyang so that it chooses to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea, after intensive negotiations signed an agreement in September 2005 to dismantle its nuclear program.  During a televised interview in Seoul October 20, Rice said the agreement “laid out a set of incentives, a set of benefits that North Korea would get, if it in fact denuclearized." (See related article.)

“What we are asking is that the countries that … have leverage here [over Pyongyang] use that leverage so that North Korea comes back to the negotiating table and does the right thing.”

China is a major trading partner with North Korea.  On October 19, China’s state councilor, Tang Jiaxuan, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang.  Although details of the visit have not been released, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, is reported as saying the visit was “very significant.”

Some press reports say the visit resulted in Kim offering an apology and a promise to return to the negotiating table.  But White House spokesman Tony Snow denied these reports October 20.

Rice, when asked by CNN October 20 about the Tang visit, said she did not have a “word by word” report of what was said.  But she did report that the Chinese told her their message was “very strong.”

Rice said that for the first time China had backed a Chapter 7 resolution against North Korea with sanctions, which in itself speaks “volumes about what China thought of North Korea's behavior.”

“The Chinese obviously wanted to send a message to the North that they had engaged in very serious behavior that China did not support,” the secretary said.  “They also want to very much to try and get a return to the diplomatic path.”  But she said,  “[W]e did not receive a proposal as such about the North Koreans returning to the talks.”

Transcripts of Rice's remarks with Li and her interview on KBS News are available on the State Department Web site.

For more on U.S. policy, see International Security and The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.