Secretary of State John Kerry met with China’s top leaders and called for a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear standoff on Saturday during a joint press conference in Beijing.
Kerry’s comments sought to end the “cycle of threats and counter-threats” that has seen North Korean military posturing stiffen ahead of national founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday Monday. The United States, for its part, has proposed moving missile defense systems to Guam and naval missile defense systems into the region.
Alongside China’s top diplomat, State Counsilor Yang Jiechi, Kerry presented the two countries’ efforts as a united front dedicated to the shared goal of “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.” Both Kerry and Yang affirmed their commitment to the 2005 September Joint Statement of the six-party talks in which representatives of the United States, China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, and Japan agreed to the goal of a “verifiable denuclearization,” and also to provide energy and trade assistance to North Korea.
Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill joined Weekends with Alex Witt to discuss China’s significance in the escalating threat from North Korea. Hill, who served as a U.S. representative to the 2005 six-party talks under President George W. Bush, said he has not seen this current level of tension in nuclear threats from the region before.
“This is pretty unprecedented, there have been pretty low points in the relationship with North Korea…I don’t think we’ve had a moment where the North Koreans are threatening everybody—including us—with nuclear annihilation,” he said.
“The Chinese seem also to be losing their patience…this is a big deal for the Chinese, so I think it’s been very important to get Secretary Kerry there … and turn this issue into a kind of win-win vis a vis the Chinese,” said Hill, adding that Chinese national security interests are at risk not only due to the threat of a full scale-conflict on the peninsula, but by the risks imposed by the beefing up of U.S. missile defense artillery in the region. Despite the reasons for concern, Hill feels that the threats of attack are mostly “bluster,” and that even a test launch should be considered as a display not deserving of military retaliations.
North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un first threatened the U.S. with nuclear warfare in March 2013 after the United Nations Security Council approved a new round of sanctions on the communist dictatorship.