U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently inaugurated the State Department’s Richard Holbrooke lecture series on the future of U.S. – China relations, and discussed the two countries’ efforts to determine the way forward on North Korea.
"The United States and China both understand the urgent need to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and to achieve the complete denuclearization of North Korea," Secretary Clinton said. "America will continue to stand with our allies, [South Korea] and Japan, as they contend with their belligerent neighbor."
When North Korea announced a nuclear test in 2009, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia, joined together in condemning North Korea’s actions. Subsequently, with China’s support, the United Nations Security Council adopted enhanced sanctions against North Korea. More recently, during President Hu’s visit to the United States, the United States and China expressed concern regarding North Korea’s claimed uranium enrichment program in their Joint Statement. As Secretary Clinton has stated, "When China plays a very constructive role, we can produce results together that send an unequivocal message to North Korea."
China is a country with unique historical ties to North Korea, and as the chair of the Six-Party Talks, China has a special role to play in helping to shape North Korea’s behavior. "We fear, and [we] have discussed this . . . with our Chinese friends, that failure to respond clearly to the sinking of a South Korean military vessel might embolden North Korea to continue on a dangerous course." Secretary Clinton continued, "The attack on Yeonpyng Island that took the lives of civilians soon followed. That shelling brought into even sharper relief the acute threat posed by this kind of reckless behavior."
"We need to make it clear to North Korea that its recent provocations – including the announced uranium enrichment program – are unacceptable and in violation of . . . Security Council resolutions." Secretary Clinton reiterated that, "Until North Korea demonstrates . . . its intention to keep its commitments, China, along with the international community, must vigorously enforce the sanctions adopted by the Security Council."