S.Korea, China leaders vow denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula

SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping vowed Thursday to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear weapons-free as they warned North Korea against detonating a nuclear bomb.

Tensions remain high on the divided Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes. North Korea has threatened to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test in anger over a United Nations condemnation of its ballistic missile launches in March.

North Korea has also displayed an apparent sign of its displeasure with Xi’s trip to South Korea by firing several short-range missiles and rockets into the sea off its east coast in recent days.

“We share the view that we must realise North Korea’s denuclearisation without fail and resolutely oppose another nuclear test,” Park said in a joint press briefing after a summit with Xi.

Park said she and Xi “reaffirmed our firm opposition to nuclear weapons development on the Korean Peninsula.” The united stance by Seoul and Beijing sends a clear message to North Korea, which has defied international pressure to give up its nuclear weapons.

The North has repeatedly vowed to develop its economy and nuclear arsenal in tandem, viewing its nuclear programme as a deterrent against what it claims is Washington’s policy of hostility.

Park and Xi said they agreed that the six nations of the stalled denuclearisation talks should establish conditions to jump-start the discussions meant to end North Korea’s nuclear programme.

North Korea agreed to scrap its nuclear programmes in exchange for diplomatic concessions and economic aid under a landmark 2005 deal with the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

However, the North later backtracked from its commitment and conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, drawing international condemnation and U.N. sanctions.

“Relevant nations should steadily pursue the six-party talks process and hold bilateral and multilateral talks and coordination and solve mutual concerns,” Xi said in the press briefing.

North Korea has expressed its wish to rejoin the nuclear talks “without preconditions.” But Seoul and Washington demand North Korea demonstrate its sincerity for denuclearisation before resuming the talks. The nuclear talks were last held in Beijing in late 2008.

Park and Xi also called for a faithful implementation of the 2005 deal and U.N. resolutions punishing North Korea for its missile and nuclear tests.

China voted in favor of tougher sanctions by the United Nations Security Council to punish Pyongyang for its third nuclear test in February 2013.

Xi also said China supports a peaceful unification of the rival Koreas, which still technically remain in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Xi arrived in South Korea for a two-day state visit, in what was seen by some observers as a snub to North Korea as the Chinese leader chose to travel to Seoul first, instead of Pyongyang, a traditional ally of Beijing.