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China finally on same page as US in handling unruly N. Korea

By anita nair

Washington, Dec. 24 (ANI): The Obama administration has confirmed that the Chinese Government has embraced an American plan to press North Korea to reconcile with South Korea after its deadly attacks on a South Korean island and a warship this year.

Washington believes Beijing has worked successfully to curb Pyongyang's belligerent behavior, the New York Times reports.

China's pressure, several senior officials said this week, might help explain why North Korea did not respond militarily to live-fire drills conducted this week by the South Korean military, when a previous drill drew an artillery barrage from the North that killed two South Korean civilians and two soldiers.

As evidence of the policy shift, officials pointed to recent remarks by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, in which he urged the North and South "to carry out dialogue and contact."

Previously, Beijing's response had been to propose an emergency meeting of the six-party group that negotiates with North Korea over its nuclear program, a step the United States opposed as rewarding the North's aggression.

The agreement on how to deal with North Korea removes a substantial irritant in the Beijing-Washington relationship four weeks before President Hu Jintao of China makes a state visit to Washington.

It also creates a glimmer of hope, officials said, that the United States can resume a dialogue with North Korea, whose hostile behavior has raised tensions to the highest level since the Korean War.

China's push for a rapprochement between the North and South is even more significant, another official said, because it unifies the five parties that deal with Pyongyang: the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

Russia's role has also been important, officials said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov spoke out against the North Korean artillery shelling.

North Korea has signaled that it was open to meetings with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Richardson said the North was willing to ship spent fuel rods to South Korea - a move that could effectively end its production of plutonium, from which it has manufactured several nuclear bombs.

Key Obama administration officials Steinberg and Jeffrey A. Baderare likely to visit Seoul soon to explore whether the temporary lull in North Korea's aggression creates an opening for diplomacy. (ANI)

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