North Korea Tension Prompts Kerry to Ask for China's Help

With the world on edge, Kerry traveled to the region hoping to defuse tension.

ByAlyssa Newcomb
April 13, 2013, 3:57 PM

April 13, 2013— -- As the world nervously waits to see whether North Korea will follow through on its threat to launch a missile, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Chinese leaders today to ask for their help defusing tensions in the region.

"This is a critical moment ... two great powers, China and the United States, can work effectively to solve problems," Kerry said in Beijing.

Since an atomic device test in February, North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, has threatened missile tests and nuclear strikes against the United States.

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Chinese leaders agreed to try and persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, expressing a desire to keep stability in the region.

"China is firmly committed to upholding peace and stability and advancing the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula," State Councilor Yang Jiechi told reporters through an interpreter.

"We maintain that the issue should be handled and resolved peacefully through dialogue," he said.

Kerry and Yang also agreed to work alongside other nations to lanch six-party talks with North Korea.

In recent days, new Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed increasing frustration with Kim Jong-un's erratic behavior, telling delegates at an international forum last weekend, "No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains," though Xi did not mention North Korea by name.

Meanwhile, in Pyongyang, North Korea. today, soldiers marched to honor the 101st birthday of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, which happens Monday.

Experts believe the day could be used as an excuse for North Korea to flex its muscles and conduct the missile test that has had the world on edge.

Kerry's four-day trip to East Asia, which also includes stops in South Korea and Japan, came as a wary region braced for a potential missile launch by Pyongyang, for yet another day.

He met Friday with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, reassuring the new leader the U.S. would defend its ally, and added North Korea's bellicose rhetoric was "simply unacceptable."

In a sign the U.S. was making efforts to tone down its own rhetoric, Kerry stressed the two discussed a "bright vision of possibilities" and the prospect of a reunited Korean peninsula "where the aspirations of two Koreas are being made," he said.

"We want to emphasize that the real goal is not reinforcing that we will defend our allies, but the possibilities of peace, the possibilities of reunification," Kerry said at a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

Kerry's visit comes on the heels of an alarming assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency, expressing "moderate confidence" North Korea might have a nuclear weapon small enough to be placed on a ballistic missile. Sources tell ABC News that sentence, buried deep in a classified report, was accidentally declassified, catching intelligence agencies off guard when Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn asked the Joint Chiefs Chairman about it at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.

It said the reliability of the missile would be low, but Kerry downplayed the assessment, saying it was inaccurate to suggest the DPRK had demonstrated capabilities to "miniaturize" a nuclear warhead.

North Korea has repeatedly threatened to attack South Korea, Japan, and U.S. bases on Okinawa and Guam. North Korea issued a fresh round of threats Friday directed at Japan, for the third time this week.

On a commentary read on state TV, Pyongyang criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to order the interception of North Korea missiles, saying his actions would result in a nuclear attack against the country, according to the Yonhap News Agency. They threatened to make Japan the first target in the event of a war.

Surveillance has shown that Pyongyang is ready to launch its untested mid-range Musudan missile, but Kim has not acted on near daily threats for all out war, so far.

In a brief escape from the escalating situation on the Korean peninsula, 50,000 fans celebrated in Seoul today with "Gangnam Style" musician PSY, who debuted a follow-up single to the international dance hit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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