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Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Trilateral declaration omits North
China refuses to publicly cite concerns to avoid angering Pyongyang
BEIJING — The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea released a joint declaration Monday, a day after their annual Beijing summit omitted any reference to one of the most pressing topics of discussion: North Korea.
At the conclusion of their one-day meeting Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said they agreed to make efforts to prevent North Korea from committing further provocative acts, after Pyongyang's failed launch one month ago of a rocket using ballistic missile technology that was carried out in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. But the three later disagreed on how to word the part on North Korea in the joint declaration, diplomats said. China, which is close to North Korea, didn't want to state anything that might anger Pyongyang, the diplomats said.
On Monday, however, the three tiptoed around the possibility that the North might provoke the region by holding another nuclear test by issuing a variety of rhetorical responses via various officials.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, Noda and Lee decided to confirm the importance of collaborating closely to prevent tensions on the Korean Peninsula from escalating, Japanese officials said.
Hu promised that China will continue to do its best to persuade the North not to act against the interests of regional stability, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tsuyoshi Saito said.
Noda told Hu and Lee the three countries "share the view" that it is necessary for them to call on North Korea not to take provocative actions, Saito said.
Later the day, Luo Zhaohui, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Asian Affairs, told reporters the joint declaration didn't mention North Korea because of "insufficient space."
"The joint statement did not mention the issue, but does it mean that this issue is not important? Of course not. The issue is very important," he said.
Other diplomats familiar with the leaders' meetings said, however, that Beijing's reluctance to offend its traditional ally Pyongyang led it to rebuff attempts by Japanese and South Korean officials to include a reference to North Korea in the official document.
The international community is concerned that North Korea will carry out a third nuclear test. Pyongyang's young leader, Kim Jong Un, is trying to consolidate power following the death of his father and long-time ruler, Kim Jong Il, in December.
During the trilateral summit, Noda, Lee and Wen frankly discussed issues related to North Korea but did not touch on whatmeasures the three might take if Pyongyang goes ahead with another provocation, according to the officials.
South Korea was interested in clearly stating in the declaration that North Korea should refrain from carrying out a third nuclear test, the diplomats said. Until the late hours of Sunday, senior officials of Japan and South Korea tried to persuade their Chinese counterparts to incorporate their views on North Korea into the declaration, but to no avail, and the three in the end dropped all references to the North from their joint statement.
After the summit ended in the morning, Wen said that each country "should fully exercise their wisdom, remain patient, show their goodwill to ease confrontation and make efforts to return to the right track of dialogue and negotiations," when engaging North Korea.