The United States, Japan, and South Korea today urged China and Russia to help them put pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program and reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula. They also balked at a Chinese call for another round of Six Party Talks, saying North Korea must take certain steps before they agree to more negotiations.
"We all agree that North Korea's provocative and belligerent behavior jeopardizes peace and stability in Asia. We are deeply concerned by its unprovoked attack on the island of Yeonpyeong, resulting in the loss of South Korean lives," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters, alongside her Japanese and South Korean counterparts after a meeting in Washington today. She said the shelling of Yeonpyeong was a violation of the 1953 armistice between North and South Korea. "We remain committed to seeking opportunities for dialogue, but we will not reward North Korea for shattering the peace or defying the international community," Clinton said.
"We first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of talks," she said, outlining what North Korea must take before the three countries would agree to talks. She said it must improve relations with South Korea, take steps to reduce tensions on the peninsula, and take steps to end its nuclear program.
On Sunday night President Obama discussed North Korea with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The White House said in a statement that President Obama "urged China to work with us and others to send a clear message to North Korea that its provocations are unacceptable." The Chinese Xinhua news agency reported that President Hu believed the situation must be dealt with quickly or else it might "spin out of control."
Tensions have run high in recent months, beginning with the North Korean sinking of a South Korean naval vessel earlier this year. Last month North Korea unveiled a secret uranium enrichment program, which the U.S. and others fear could be used to produce more nuclear weapons. Relations with South Korea deteriorated further two weeks ago when the North fired artillery shells at populated parts of Yeonpyeong last month, killing several civilians and South Korean marines.
Today's meeting between Secretary Clinton and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts aimed to formulate a coordinated response to the recent North Korean actions.
"We will turn this meeting into one that will get the engagement, firm engagement, of China and Russia in our efforts as well," Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters.
The Chinese, who have considerable influence with North Korea, were not invited to the meeting. Last week Beijing called for a new round of nuclear talks with North Korea, but the U.S. and others balked because they do not want to be seen as rewarding Pyongyang with a meeting after its provocative behavior.
Since the November 23 attack, the U.S. has stressed its solidarity with Seoul. Within days of the attack, it deployed the carrier U.S.S. George Washington for military exercises with South Korean forces and today dispatched the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, to South Korea and Japan for consultations. A high-level American team will follow up with meetings in Asia next week. Before today's trilateral meeting in Washington Clinton called for a moment of silence to honor the four people killed in the shelling.
"We are committed to our partners and we are committed to the preservation of peace and stability in Northeast Asia and on the Korean Peninsula," she said.
South Korea has threatened to retaliate if North Korea continues its provocative behavior.
"We also share the view that North Korea will face severe consequences if it engages in further provocations," Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan warned today.