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Wu calls on Seoul to tell Washington to use caution

Apr 13,2017
Chinese top nuclear envoy Wu Dawei is meeting with South Korean political leaders, officials and experts, for feedback on the likelihood of Washington taking unilateral action on Pyongyang.

Wu, China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, is said to have asked Korean officials, “What is the likelihood of the United States acting on its own? And if it does, what kind of unilateral actions will it take?”

He urged South Koreans to convince the United States to practice restraint should it decide to take action.

“U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Korea and Japan last week and emphasized an ‘alliance-centric approach’ and revealed the intention to respect our position in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue,” a diplomatic source here told the JoongAng Ilbo Wednesday. “Wu’s remarks are a signal the United States’ tactic of tugging and putting pressure on China, with South Korea and the United States being in one voice on the North Korea nuclear issue, is in part working.”

Last week during his summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Donald Trump called for Beijing to increase pressure on North Korea. Beijing has also attempted to send a special envoy to Pyongyang to convince the North to refrain from further provocations, but despite Wu conveying that he could visit Pyongyang in person, North Korea has not responded. This is a change from when China sent then-Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, a seasoned diplomat, as a special envoy to Pyongyang immediately after the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, killing two soldiers and two civilians.

In his memoir, “President’s Time,” former President Lee Myung-bak describes how Wu met with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and conveyed that in the case of an armed conflict, China would not help North Korea. This relayed the message that China will firmly punish Pyongyang should it cause further problems.

But unlike his father, Kim Jong-un appears to be shunning Beijing’s efforts to ease such tension.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said, “Recently, a U.S. official said that ‘China, like us, is sick and tired of North Korea,’ and we in reality felt that sort of atmosphere during Wu’s visit to Korea this time around.”

During his talks with the South Korean government, Wu relayed that if, despite such warnings, North Korea conducts a sixth nuclear test, China will also have to take strong measures.

He also said, “North Korea has to give up the fantasy that it will possess nuclear weapons like Pakistan and India, with the international community overlooking the situation.”

Kong Xuanyou, the Chinese assistant foreign minister, visited Tokyo from April 3 to 5 to coordinate a summit between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A government source here said, “The United States told Japan of a possibility of military action toward North Korea, and during negotiations with Japan, Kong conveyed this message to his government. Though China was in denial, during the U.S.-China summit, when Washington conducted a strike on Syria, it realized that the United States is actually serious.”

BY YOO JEE-HYE, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]