US urges China to exercise influence on ‘unpredictable young man’ in N. Korea

February 4, 2016
Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. The Pentagon says the leader of the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group was the target of U.S. military airstrikes that struck an encampment and a vehicle Monday night. Kirby said the results of the strike are being assessed and he can't confirm if Somali Ahmed Abdi Godane, the rebel leader, was hit.  He says the strike against Godane was conducted by special operations forces with manned and unmanned aircraft firing hellfire missiles and precision-guided munitions.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said China should exercise regional leadership and influence to help change the behavior of the “very unpredictable young man” leading its communist neighbor. (AP, file)

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — China should exercise regional leadership and influence with North Korea to help change the behavior of the “very unpredictable young man” leading its communist neighbor, the U.S. State Department spokesman said Thursday.

“We believe that as a strong leader in the Asia-Pacific region, and as a nation that borders the North, China has a unique role it has to play, has unique leadership that it can exert, and influence that it can bring to bear,” spokesman John Kirby said at a Foreign Press Center briefing.

“As we said before, we’d like to see them exert that leadership and to bring to bear that influence on the North to try to alter the behavior of this very unpredictable young man,” he said.

Kirby said the North should focus on efforts to “put food in the mouths of the North Korean people instead of spending money on dangerous military capabilities.”

The U.S. has worked hard to drum up Chinese support for meaningful punishment of the North for its Jan. 6 nuclear test. Chinese cooperation is key to putting together strong sanctions on Pyongyang as China is one of the five veto-holding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and the main provider of food and fuel for the North.

Beijing has condemned the North’s nuclear test, but has been lukewarm about calls for stern responses. Analysts have long said Beijing fears that pushing Pyongyang too hard could lead to its collapse, instability on its border with China and the untimely emergence of a pro-U.S. nation.

Kirby said that sanctions are one piece of additional tough measures against the North, stressing the importance of rigorous implementation of the sanctions. In the past, he said, the enforcement of sanctions and measures “hasn’t necessarily been evenly applied and that’s been a challenge.”

Asked if the U.S. has any intention to apply the solution used in the Iranian nuclear problem to the North Korean issue, Kirby said the two cases are different, and the North’s problem should be resolved through six-party talks.

“We have long said, we are willing to resume this six-party process, but the onus is on the North …They have not yet shown any inclination. As a matter of fact, they’ve gone quite the opposite way to show that they have no interest in returning to the six-party talks,” Kirby said.

The already-high tensions on the Korean Peninsula in the wake of the North’s nuclear test rose even higher this week as Pyongyang unveiled its plan to carry out a long-range rocket launch between Monday and Feb. 25 in violation of U.N. resolutions.

North Korea says its rocket launches are aimed at putting satellites into orbit, claiming it has the right to the peaceful use of space. But Pyongyang is banned from such launches under U.N. Security Council resolutions as it has been accused of using them as a cover for testing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Kirby said the North’s announcement “underscores the importance for a united international consensus to deal with provocative behavior of Kim Jong Un and the North.”