CHINA'S INFLUENCE FEARED WANING

Hill wants unity on North’s missile tests

by Reiji Yoshida

To ratchet up the pressure on North Korea and to underscore cooperation between Tokyo and Washington, the chief U.S. negotiator on North Korean issues agreed Monday with Foreign Minister Taro Aso on the need for the international community to unequivocally condemn Pyongyang’s ballistic missile tests.

“We want to make it very clear that we are all speaking with one voice on this provocative action by the North Koreans,” Christopher Hill told reporters after meeting with Aso at the Foreign Ministry.

Hill arrived Sunday after visiting China and South Korea to discuss North Korea’s missile tests last week. One of the missiles was a long-range Taepodong-2 theoretically capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Pyongyang fired seven missiles despite repeated warnings from Japan, the U.S., South Korea and China, prompting Japan to slap it with new economic sanctions and to submit a resolution to the U.N. Security Council condemning the North and calling for new international trade restrictions.

Hill stressed that the international community should send “a very clear and unanimous message” warning the North over the missile launches.

The focus of attention at the U.N. has been on whether China and Russia, which have voiced opposition to the resolution, will veto it. A vote on the resolution was expected to take place in New York early Tuesday.

“We believe that both (Russia and China) understand the importance of speaking with one voice on this matter,” Hill said.

After a meeting with bureau-chief level Foreign Ministry officials, Hill said they agreed to watch closely whether China, Pyongyang’s most influential ally, can persuade the North to stop its missile and nuclear weapon-related activities.

“I must say that the issue of Chinese influence in the DPRK (North Korea) is one that concerns us, because China said to the DPRK, ‘don’t fire those missile,’ and the DPRK fired them,” Hill said.

China has been considered a key player in the six-party talks, comprising the U.S., Japan, China, Russia and the two Koreas, aimed at addressing the North’s nuclear arms and missile programs.

But the fact that Pyongyang ignored Beijing’s warning cast doubts on its capability as the chair of the six-party talks.

“I think everybody, especially the Chinese, ought to be a little worried about that,” Hill said.

He criticized Pyongyang for “firing off missiles costing millions of dollars” even though it cannot provide enough food or electricity for its people and depends on foreign assistance.

Hill called on North Korea to return to the six-party talks immediately.

“The North has a choice before it: whether to go for continued isolation or to join the international community,” he said.