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China signals North Korea to stop throwing the 'world into chaos'

April 07, 2013|By Barbara Demick

BEIJING -- In a sign of China’s exasperation with its rogue ally, North Korea, newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday condemned nations that throw the “world into chaos.”

Without mentioning North Korea by name, Xi told delegates at an international forum in Boao, southern Hainan province: “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.’’

Xi advised turning “our global village into a big stage for common development, rather than an arena where gladiators fight each other.’’

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The warning came as South Korean intelligence warned of an imminent missile launch from North Korea’s East Coast. North Korea has moved an intermediate-range missile into position for what is most likely a routine test but could possibly target U.S. interests in Guam. The South Korean newspaper Joongang Daily also quoted unidentified South Korean government sources as saying the North might be preparing another nuclear test.

Adding to the urgency, a Japanese official was quoted Monday as saying that Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera had ordered armed forces to shoot down any North Korean missile that comes near its territory.

Pyongyang has been trying to whip up an atmosphere of hysteria for weeks. Its propagandists have issued daily apocalyptic warnings of a coming war, and it has said its nuclear weapons are “treasures” that will never be bargained away. Foreign embassies based in Pyongyang have been advised to evacuate their personnel by Wednesday, although most governments have declined, seeing the warning as another inflammatory tactic.

The United States is looking to Beijing to take a more proactive role in pulling an increasingly shrill Pyongyang back from the brink. After a similar crisis in 2003, Beijing hosted six-nation talks over denuclearization that, at least temporarily, restored calm to the region.

In a rare break with its Communist ally, China sided with the United States in imposing U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea after a nuclear test in February.

“This is the first foreign policy test for Xi Jinping,’’ said Lee Chung-min, dean of international studies at Seoul’s Yonsei University. “I think the Chinese leadership is realizing that the North Koreans are more of a liability than an asset and that if they don’t control North Korea there will be consequences.’’

Named general secretary of the Communist Party in November, Xi stepped up to the presidency last month. The inexperience of the leadership is seen as a factor in the quickly escalating crisis around the Korean peninsula. South Korea also has a new leader, Park Geun-hye, installed in February; while North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, only 30 years old, has been in place since his father's death in December 2011.

“China has not been very clear on what it is doing about the North Korea situation, which makes me hope there are some backdoor negotiations going on,’’ said Zhan Jiang, a professor at Beijing’s Foreign Studies University.

In another effort to restore calm, Pentagon officials were quoted over the weekend as saying that a previously planned test launch this week of a Minuteman-3 intercontinental ballistic missile would be delayed to avoid inflaming North Korea. Pyongyang was upset in part by recent war games with U.S. and South Korean forces in which B-52 and stealth bombers participated.

barbara.demick@latimes.com

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