Monday, May 25, 2009

China opposes nuke tests

As the test has angered China, it is unlikely to back stronger sanctions as part of any new UN Security Council resolution. --PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - CHINA'S government says it is 'resolutely opposed' to the nuclear weapons test carried out by communist neighbour and ally North Korea.

A Foreign Ministry statement says the North carried out Monday's test in defiance of the international community and its own commitments to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

The statement on the ministry's website says Pyongyang should avoid actions that would sharpen tensions and return to the six-nation process to dismantle its nuclear programmes.

China is the North's main source of diplomatic support and opposed additional United Nations' sanctions after Pyongyang tested a long-range missile earlier this year. It also provides food and fuel aid to North Korea.

While the test has angered China, it is unlikely to back stronger sanctions as part of any new UN Security Council resolution, Chinese analysts said on Monday.

As a permanent member of the council, China has the power to veto any such resolution. But it is likely to face pressure from Washington and other regional capitals to support measures punishing the North for its test.

Pressure was already building on China to take a firmer stand as host of the now-stalled six-party talks among regional powers that aim to dismantle North Korea's nuclear programme.

Beijing condemned North Korea's first nuclear test blast in 2006 as a 'brazen' slap in the face for Chinese leaders, who give the North crucial economic and diplomatic protection.

This time, China's leaders will probably be more careful to balance their anger against worries that Pyongyang could make the six-party nuclear disarmament talks unsalvageable, said Xu Guangyu, a nuclear expert at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. Already, however, pressure is building on Beijing.

'The Chinese must use their influence to help bring North Korea to the table for the six-party talks,' US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was visiting China, said in a statement issued through the US Embassy in Beijing.

Ms Pelosi was in Shanghai. 'Today's announcement makes that need all the more urgent.' -- AP, REUTERS

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