China’s ambassador to the United Nations has called on the United States to be more flexible in its relations with North Korea as Beijing joins others to overturn a joint US Security Council statement condemning Pyongyang’s recent rocket launches, according to diplomats.
Washington had proposed a statement condemning the launches, but China and Russia, along with other nations, refused to sign it, diplomats told AFP on Friday.
“If they want to see a new breakthrough, they need to be more sincere and flexible,” China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, told U.S. officials ahead of a closed-door meeting convened at Washington’s request for North Korea.
“They need to come up with more attractive and practical, more flexible approaches, policies and actions, and address North Korea’s concerns,” Zhang told reporters, using the initials of the North’s official name.
“What I see is the key to solving this problem, it is already in the hands of the United States.
The Kim Jong Un regime conducted an unprecedented seven weapons tests in January, including the launch of its most powerful missile since 2017, hinting that it could restart long-range nuclear tests.
The Chinese official noted that as a result of the policy of former US President Donald Trump towards North Korea, Pyongyang has stopped nuclear tests and international ballistic missile launches.
However, in recent months, Zhang has complained that “we have seen a vicious circle of confrontation, condemnation, sanctions.”
China and Russia have blocked UN Security Council actions against North Korea and proposed a resolution last year to ease sanctions against Pyongyang for humanitarian reasons, but the bill was not put to a vote due to a lack of support.
“At least we are doing something to facilitate further improvement and avoid escalating tensions,” Zhang said.
Rewarding Bad Behavior
After the meeting, US envoy to the world organization Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Sino-Russian proposal to ease sanctions would effectively reward North Korea for what it called “bad behavior.”
“There is no reason for this Council to reward them for nine tests in one month and almost as many in previous years,” she told reporters.
“Spending millions of dollars on military tests when your people are starving shows that this country is not interested in its own people.
Friday’s meeting for North Korea was the third in a month.
In the latter, on January 20, eight members of the Council – Albania, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the United States – issued a joint statement with Japan condemning the tests in the North.
The other seven members of the Council – China, Gabon, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico and Russia – refused to sign.
On Friday, the same eight countries and Japan, again led by Washington, issued a new statement reiterating a call on North Korea to “stop its destabilizing actions and return to dialogue.”
“We continue to call on the DPRK to respond positively to proposals from the United States and others for an unconditional meeting,” the statement said.
The statement called on other members of the Security Council to say that “the cost of the Council’s continued silence is too high”.
North Korea on Friday sent “warm congratulations” to its Chinese ally on the Beijing Winter Olympics, a statement experts say is a likely signal to halt missile tests during the sporting event.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is due to hold trilateral talks on the issue on February 12 in Hawaii with South Korea and Japan.