The US Calls on China to Take a Tougher Stance on North Korea

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. The words are flying fast and furious between the US and North Korea. We've heard all week about Pyongyang's threats to hit at the US, possibly by launching a missile. Well, today at a press conference in Seoul, Secretary of State John Kerry warned the North that that would be a huge mistake. Kerry also called on China to put teeth in its efforts to reign in North Korea, or DPRK in diplomatic lingo.

John Kerry: No country in the world has as close a relationship or as significant an impact on the DPRK than China. China has an enormous ability to help make a difference here.

Werman: Kerry plans to deliver that message in person when he visits China tomorrow. The World's Mary Kay Magistad is in Beijing. She says Kerry's statement hasn't elicited a Chinese reply yet.

Mary Kay Magistad: Not a direct response. The Chinese line at this point is everyone should stay calm, and we should all talk, and try to move forward together peacefully. You have to keep in mind that the US has been making calls for China to get serious, to get tough on North Korea for almost ten years, and this has pretty consistently been the Chinese line in response. China has hosted six-party talks for several years. There were some agreements reached. Most of them went nowhere, they were breached almost immediately. And basically it comes down to the fact that North Korea has shown no desire to give up nuclear weapons, even in bargaining them away. They see no reason to do that. They see the nuclear weapons, the nuclear deterrent at least, as being something that makes them a power in the world that's taken more seriously than they would be otherwise.

Werman: Right. So how are these latest posturings between the US and North Korea been playing out in China and across the region?

Magistad: Officially in China, the line is everyone keep calm, we're going to get through this diplomatically and through dialogue. But in fact, the People's Liberation Army Daily was quoted as reporting on Sunday that tanks and armored vehicles from a military unit up in the northeast of China, in the Shenyang area, took part in drills. The Defense Ministry has since denied that the PLA reported this, but this has been reported both in the Taiwanese press and the Hong Kong press. Across the border in North Korea, North Korean parachute troops have conducted drills in the city of Sinuiju which is just across the Yalu River from the Chinese city of Dandong. And there actually has been an air raid drill in a Chinese city also near the North Korean border. That was on Thursday morning. So while on the surface it's "everyone be calm," there are contingency plans being made on the fringes nonetheless.

Werman: So has that news of tanks and armored vehicles shaken up Chinese who are far away from the North? Are they nervous?

Magistad: Well, again, the Defense Ministry is denying that this even happened. I would assume that in the city of Huichen in Jilin province, which had the air raid drills, they're very close to the North Korean border, the people are at least aware that there could be some sort of an issue if North Korea does make good on some of its threats. But so far the Chinese official line has been, you know, the North Koreans are telling us that we should vacate our embassy. We're conducting business as usual and we don't see any reason why we shouldn't.

Werman: Keep calm and carry on. The World's Mary Kay Magistad in Beijing. Thanks a lot.

Magistad: Thank you, Marco.