China's Presumed Next Leader Urges Cooperation on North Korea
China's presumed next leader, Vice President Xi Jinping, on Wednesday urged close cooperation between his country and the United States on resolving the long-running North Korean nuclear impasse, the Yonhap News Agency reported (see GSN, Feb. 16).
"The world is currently undergoing profound changes, and China and the United States face shared challenges and shared
responsibilities in international affairs," Xi told a Washington audience.
"We should further use bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to enhance coordination between China and the United States on hot spots, including developments on the Korean Peninsula and the Iran nuclear issue," Xi said.
Beijing has traditionally been North Korea's strongest supporter and its unwavering backing of Pyongyang has frequently frustrated the United States.
During his high-profile trip to Washington, Xi met with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and dropped by Capitol Hill (Yonhap News Agency I/Korea Times
, Feb. 16).
Meanwhile, a senior official on Thursday said the U.S. Defense Department is watching for indications North Korea could be preparing fresh assaults on South Korea, Yonhap reported.
Seoul and Washington say a North Korean submarine-launched torpedo sunk a South Korean warship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors. The North's military later that year shelled the South's Yeonpyeong Island, killing four people.
There are worries now that Pyongyang could seek to bolster the influence of its young new leader, Kim Jong Un, by staging new provocations, including missile and nuclear tests.
"The Defense Intelligence Agency retains continued focus on the peninsula to provide warning against additional attacks from the North," agency director Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"We see no sign that the leadership transition has changed the regimes' calculus regarding nuclear weapons," Burgess said.
"While North Korea may abandon portions of its nuclear program for better relations with the United States, it is unlikely to surrender its nuclear weapons," the officer added.
Diplomats from Pyongyang and Washington are scheduled to meet next week in Beijing for bilateral talks aimed at reaching agreement on conditions for reviving the paralyzed North Korean denuclearization process. It will be the first time the two nations have met since the December death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency II
, Feb. 16).
South Korean and U.S. maritime forces are expected next week to conduct a collaborative drill in the Yellow Sea on countering North Korea's submarines, Agence France-Presse reported.
The exercise is scheduled from Monday through Friday and will include a variety of U.S. and South Korean surface naval ships and submarines, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said.
An anonymous South Korean armed forces official told the JoongAng Ilbo
newspaper that next week's antisubmarine drill would be the biggest of its kind. The newspaper reported that it would include 20 vessels, three of which would be equipped with Aegis antimissile systems (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com
, Feb. 16).