April 7, 2013

Korean crisis may help U.S. forge new ties with China

North Korea's threats have focused China and the U.S. on regional security instead of an economic rivalry.

By LARA JAKES The Associated Press

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A North Korean soldier uses binoculars to watch the South Korean side at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone.

The Associated Press

North Korea's military issued a statement saying its troops have been authorized to counter U.S. "aggression" with "powerful practical military counteractions," including nuclear weapons. Experts doubt Pyongyang is able to launch nuclear-tipped missiles, although the extent of its nuclear arsenal is unclear.

China historically has been lax on enforcing international sanctions against the North. But in what the United States took as a positive development, China signed on to stiffer measures in the latest round of U.N. Security Council sanctions announced after the February nuclear test, and there are initial indications that it's increasing cargo inspections. Whether this will lead to concrete steps that will crimp North Korea's weapons programs and illicit trade in arms, however, remains to be seen.

Asia expert and peace activist Hyun Lee said Washington will be unlikely to turn Beijing against North Korea in the long run. But she said China does not want to see a stepped-up U.S. military presence in the region, and Beijing certainly doesn't want a war on its borders.

China "doesn't want to deal with headaches like the tension between the U.S. and North Korea," said Lee of the Working Group for Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific. "I think China is trying to restrain both sides."

 

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