2011/01/21

Obama warned Hu to pressure NKorea: report

WASHINGTON, January 21, 2011 (AFP) - President Barack Obama warned Chinese President Hu Jintao that Washington would have to redeploy forces in Asia unless Beijing stepped up pressure on North Korea, The New York Times reported Friday.

The US "warning, first made in a phone call to Mr. Hu last month and repeated over a private dinner at the White House on Tuesday, persuaded China to take a harder line toward North Korea," the report said citing an unnamed US official.

It said the push seeking action from the visiting Chinese leader "opened the door to a resumption of dialogue between North and South Korea."

Just Thursday, Seoul said that it had agreed to hold defense talks with the North, the first engagement between the Koreas since a deadly North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean island in November. The strike lurched the peninsula seemingly to the brink of war.

While China has not condemned North Korea for torpedoing a South Korean warship, Hu on his visit did for the first time join the United States in voicing concern at "a new North Korean uranium-enrichment plant. But there were no immediate signs that it planned to punish the North for its defiance," the report added.

Pressure from the US president "reinforced by cabinet members like Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, moved China into much closer alignment with the United States in dealing with North Korea."

"Without help from China, which is the major supporter of the North Korean government, Mr. Obama told Mr. Hu that the United States would have to take long-term measures, like redeploying its forces, changing its defense posture or beefing up military exercises in Northeast Asia," the unnamed administration official told the Times.

"It was not meant to suggest pre-emption, but we were projecting that a North Korea that becomes a national security threat is going to get a response," the report quoted the unnamed official as saying. "That was attention-getting for the Chinese."

Washington irked Beijing last year when it sent the aircraft carrier George Washington to take part in joint drills with South Korea in the Yellow Sea after Pyongyang sunk a warship from the South.
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