US asks China to rein in N Korea

Obama warns Pyongyang against planned rocket launch

US President Barack Obama urged China on Sunday to use its influence to rein in North Korea instead of “turning a blind eye” to its nuclear defiance, and warned of tighter sanctions if the reclusive state goes ahead with a rocket launch next month.

“North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” a stern-faced Obama said after a tour of the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas resonant with echoes of the Cold War.

Such a launch would only lead to further isolation of the impoverished North, which much show its sincerity if on-again-off-again six-party aid-for-disarmament talks are to restart, Obama told a news conference in the South Korean capital.

Seoul and Washington say the launch will be a disguised test of a ballistic missile that violates Pyongyang’s latest international commitments. North Korea says it merely wants to put a satellite into orbit.

Even as Obama warned North Korea of the consequences of its actions, he spoke bluntly to China, the closest thing Pyongyang has to an ally, of its international obligations.

Obama said Beijing’s actions of “rewarding bad behaviour (and) turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations” were obviously not working, and he promised to raise the matter at a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Seoul on Monday.

“I believe that China is very sincere that it does not want to see North Korea with a nuclear weapon,” he told a news conference in Seoul before a global summit on nuclear security. “But it is going to have to act on that interest in a sustained way.” It was Obama’s sharpest message yet to China to use its clout with North Korea in a nuclear standoff with the West, and dovetails with recent calls for Beijing to meet its responsibilities as a rising power.

In an election year when Republicans have accused Obama of not being strong enough with Beijing, talking tough on China is seen as a potential vote-winner after three years of troubled diplomacy in dealings with Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

China is host to the six-party talks, which involve Japan and Russia as well as the two Koreas and the United States.

Obama earlier visited a US base on the edge of the Demilitarised Zone as a solemn North Korea came to a halt to mark the 100th day after “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il’s death. “You guys are at freedom’s frontier,” Obama told about 50 troops at Camp Bonifas mess hall at one of the world’s most heavily fortified frontiers.

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