China: US should push North Korea diplomacy, not pressure

UNITED NATIONS — China’s U.N. ambassador expressed hope Monday that President Joe Biden’s policy toward North Korea will give more importance to diplomacy and dialogue instead of “extreme pressure” to try to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Zhang Jun said China also hopes the review of U.S. policy will give equal emphasis to both the nuclear issue and the peace and security issue.

“Without tackling the security and the peace issue properly, definitely we do not have the right environment for our efforts for the denuclearization,” he said.

The White House said last Friday that Biden plans to veer from the approaches of his two most recent predecessors as he tries to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, rejecting both Donald Trump’s deeply personal effort to win over leader Kim Jong Un and Barack Obama’s more hands-off approach. Press secretary Jen Psaki announced administration officials had completed the review of U.S. policy toward North Korea but did not detail its findings.

The Biden administration appeared to signal it is trying to set the stage for incremental progress, in which denuclearization steps by the North would be met with corresponding actions, including sanctions relief, from the United States.

There was no mention of U.S. security guarantees for North Korea or a formal end to the Korean War, both of which had been demanded by the North and considered by the Trump team as part of a larger package.

China assumed the presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month and ambassador Zhang told a news conference that Beijing will look “very carefully” at the U.S. policy review in hopes it will give more emphasis to dialogue.

China and Russia circulated a draft resolution a year ago on lifting some sanctions against North Korea, and Zhang said it’s still on the table. He stressed that while China is implementing sanctions against the North, it also believes the Security Council should consider adjusting and lifting sanctions “which are really hindering the humanitarian access … and making people suffer.”

“At a certain stage, timely adjustment (of sanctions) will really produce good results with the creation of more favorable environment for the tackling of this issue,” the ambassador said.

North Korea said Sunday that Biden was mistaken in calling the country a security threat in a speech to Congress last week and warned of an unspecified response.

As for the current situation, China’s Zhang said: “We do hear harsh words and we do see some tensions at certain level, but in general it remains stable.”

Referring to North Korea and the United States, he said both sides “should really think seriously about what they should do next … and in particular avoiding taking any actions which may make the situation even worse.”

“All efforts should go along the direction of resuming dialogue, making more efforts, walking towards each other instead of walking against each other,” Zhang said. “Otherwise, I do not see any possibility of finding a lasting, sustaining solution simply by exercising pressure,” whether “it’s extreme pressure or light pressure.”

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