US President Barack Obama yesterday urged China to use its influence to stop North Korea’s “bad behavior” in a nuclear standoff with the West and hinted at tougher sanctions if the reclusive state goes ahead with a rocket launch next month.
Such a launch would only further isolate the North, which must show its sincerity if on-again-off-again six-party aid-for-disarmament talks are to restart, Obama said.
Seoul and Washington say the launch is a disguised test of a ballistic missile. North Korea says it merely wants to put a satellite in orbit.
“They need to understand that bad behavior will not be rewarded,” he told a news conference in Seoul after arriving in the South Korean capital to attend a global summit on nuclear security.
Obama urged China to be more forceful and said he would raise the subject at a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) today.
“I believe that China is very sincere that it does not want to see North Korea with a nuclear weapon, but it is going to have to act on that interest in a sustained way,” he said.
Meanwhile, China urged world leaders not to stray off topic by addressing North Korea’s nuclear program at this week’s summit.
The North is not on the formal agenda, but Pyongyang’s plan to launch a rocket next month has overshadowed the run-up to the meeting.
“It is no surprise that the subject has stolen some of the limelight,” Xinhua news agency said in a commentary. “However, the Seoul summit ... is not an appropriate platform to address the question.”
Earlier yesterday, Obama visited a US base on the edge of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
“You guys are at freedom’s frontier,” Obama, wearing an Air Force One bomber jacket, told about 50 troops crammed into the Camp Bonifas mess at one of the world’s most heavily fortified frontiers.
“The contrast between South Korea and North Korea could not be clearer, could not be starker, both in terms of freedom and in terms of prosperity,” he said.
He spent about 10 minutes on a camouflaged viewing platform at the DMZ, talking with some of the soldiers on guard as the flags of the US, South Korea and the UN flapped loudly in the brisk, cold wind.
The White House cast Obama’s first visit to the DMZ, which has bisected the Korean Peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953, as a way to showcase the strength of the US-South Korean alliance and thank some of the nearly 30,000 US troops still deployed in the South.