South Korean president in China for visit that could further pressure North Korea into talks
BEIJING – The South Korean president's visit to China's capital brings together North Korea's arch-rival and its biggest ally for meetings that will put Pyongyang under greater pressure to rejoin nuclear disarmament talks.
President Park Geun-hye arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a four-day visit that marks the first formal discussions between Park and the new Chinese administration led by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
Park, a self-taught Mandarin speaker, has said she is keen to enlist the Chinese leaders in the drive for new North Korean denuclearization discussions that also would include the U.S., Russia, and Japan.
"I will try to make cooperation between the two countries more substantial and harden Korea-China cooperation for the sake of attaining the goal of North Korea's denuclearization so as to make North Korea come forward for sincere talks," Park was quoted as saying earlier this week by South Korean media.
The China-hosted talks have been stalled since 2009 over how to verify North Korea is fulfilling its commitments to dismantle its nuclear facilities.
Teaming up with China offers some hope for success, with Beijing showing signs of frustration with its neighbor and longstanding communist ally. China was angered by the North's long-range rocket launch and carrying out of a third nuclear test earlier this year, leading Beijing to back tightened U.N. sanctions, crack down on North Korean banking activity, and urge Pyongyang to return to disarmament talks.
"We hope all sides involved can continue to work toward returning to the six-party talks and make concrete efforts to resolve the relevant issues, achieve denuclearization, preserve peace and stability in the peninsula through dialogue and negotiation within the framework of the six-party talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday.
While China is North Korea's biggest source of diplomatic and economic support, their trade and other interactions dwarf those which China maintains with the South. Ordinary Chinese are also big fans of South Korean pop culture and high-tech wares, and there is a growing sentiment among urban intellectuals that China should not sacrifice international credibility for the sake of coddling Pyongyang.