Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US warns Beijing it may redeploy forces over N Korea

Reuters, SEOUL and WASHINGTON

The US warned China that it would redeploy forces in Asia if Beijing failed to rein in its ally North Korea, the New York Times reported yesterday, as Pyongyang bowed to pressure and agreed to crisis talks.

The paper quoted a senior administration official as saying US President Barack Obama’s warning had persuaded China — the North’s main diplomatic and economic backer — to take a harder line toward Pyongyang and opened the door to a resumption of inter-Korean talks, possibly next month.

South Korea agreed on Thursday to a North Korean offer of high-level military talks, a major breakthrough in the crisis on the peninsula. Such talks could clear the way for the resumption of long-stalled aid-for-disarmament negotiations with the North.

The New York Times said Obama warned Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) that if Beijing did not step up pressure on North Korea, Washington would redeploy its forces in Asia to protect itself from a potential North Korean strike on US soil.

Obama first made the warning in a telephone call to Hu last month and repeated it over a private dinner at the White House on Tuesday, the US administration official said.

The White House refused to comment on the report.

Last week, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that Pyongyang was becoming a direct threat to the US and could develop inter-continental ballistic missiles within five years.

South Korea said it had agreed to hold high-level military talks with the North, the first such contact since a deadly artillery attack on the South last November sharply raised tensions on the divided peninsula.

Pyongyang on Thursday bowed to Seoul’s demands for talks specifically addressing that attack and the sinking of a South Korean warship last March, but made no mention of talks on denuclearization — the key component of six-party meetings.

Washington and Tokyo have cautiously welcomed the Korean talks, but there has been no comment from Beijing.

Analysts cautioned against reading too much into the talks, saying while they marked progress, the South’s demands for an apology for last year’s attacks could prove difficult for Pyongyang to accept.

“There must be a paradigm shift from both North and South Korea for the sake of stability in the region,” Ahn Yinhay of Korea University said. “Given the favorable relationship between China and the United States, now is the right time.”

Obama and Hu have jointly expressed concern about North Korea’s nuclear program.

The South’s Unification Ministry said it was formulating a proposal for separate nuclear talks with the North.

“I think there will be opportunities to discuss the specific measures aimed toward denuclearization,” the South’s envoy for six-party talks, Wi Sung-lac, told YTN radio. “We need to confirm that North Korea is sincere about denuclearization, and talks are needed for this reason. Through such talks we will need to see whether the six-party talks could be productive.”

The prospect of a resumption of six-party talks will set off a new wave of diplomacy, starting with a visit to the region by US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg next week.

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