China must respond firmly to a violation by North Korea of commitments made by Pyongyang during the course of six-party nuclear negotiations, present and former U.S. officials said on Monday.
“Beijing has a special relationship with North Korea and they also have chairmanship of the six-party talks. They do have a special responsibility” to condemn North Korea’s latest provocation, said Sung Kim, the Obama administration’s special envoy to the talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
Siegfried Hecker, a U.S. nuclear scientist, reported that on a visit to North Korea this month he had been shown an advanced nuclear facility comprising 2,000 centrifuges that have the ability to enrich uranium. This enriched uranium could either be used for fuel production or to produce weapons-grade fissile material.
Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special envoy to North Korea, will be traveling to Beijing on Tuesday and is expected to press China to adopt a strong position on North Korea’s transgressions.
Besides China and North Korea, the U.S., Russia, South Korea and Japan are the other participants in the six-party talks. The talks have been on hold since 2008.
Mr. Kim said the new North Korean nuclear facility was a “clear violation” of commitments Pyongyang has made during the course of the six-party talks.
“We want China to be a proactive chairman of the talks,” Mr. Kim said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
It is in China’s interests to ensure that the North Koreans do not act in a manner that can destabilize the region, he added.
Victor Cha, who served as director of Asian affairs in the George W. Bush administration and deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks, described China’s position on the latest development as very important.
“We want the Chinese to come out very clearly … to say that this is a violation… rather than trying to make excuses” for the North Koreans, Mr. Cha said.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Monday that North Korea’s “claim to have a uranium enrichment program, if true, contradicts its own pledges and commitments and violates its international obligations.”
“This reinforces, however, our longstanding concern about North Korea’s clandestine uranium enrichment activities. We will not be drawn into rewarding North Korea for bad behavior. They frequently anticipate doing something outrageous or provocative and forcing us to jump through hoops as a result, and we’re not going to buy into this cycle,” Mr. Crowley said.
He said the U.S. would consult with its partners and coordinate a unified response to North Korea’s actions.