North Korea's ICBM test 'unforgivable', say Xi Jinping and Moon Jae In

South Korean President Moon Jae In (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) pose for a photo prior to their talks at a hotel in Berlin, Germany, July 6, 2017. The two leaders are in Germany for the upcoming G-20 summit, which will be held in Hamburg
South Korean President Moon Jae In (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) pose for a photo prior to their talks at a hotel in Berlin, Germany, July 6, 2017. The two leaders are in Germany for the upcoming G-20 summit, which will be held in Hamburg from July 7-8. EPA/YONHAP

BERLIN/BEIJING (REUTERS, AFP) - South Korea’s President Moon Jae In and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed at a summit meeting on Thursday (July 6) that North Korea’s test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday was“unforgivable,”, Yonhap news agency reported.  

The leaders of the two countries also discussed stronger sanctions and pressure against North Korea at the meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Germany, Yonhap said, days after Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that Kim Jong Un dubbed a gift to “American bastards”.  

Xi told Moon that China is committed to denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and a settlement of the issue via dialogue and consultation, state news agency Xinhua said.

Moon said later on Thursday dialogue with North Korea was more pressing than ever and a peace treaty to permanently end the Korean War must be signed by all parties to establish lasting peace on the peninsula.

Moon said in a speech in Berlin the North made a disappointing and misguided decision to conduct a test of a ballistic missile on Tuesday and it now faced the last chance to make the right choice.

“We do not wish for the collapse of North Korea and we will not pursue any form of unification by absorbing the other. We will not pursue unification by force,” he said.  The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war under an armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War, signed by the North, the United States and China.

Separately China’s vice-finance minister Zhu Guangyao said Beijing would implement all sanctions imposed on North Korea as a result of its missile tests, but warned the US not to use them as an excuse to impose sanctions against China’s financial institutions.

“As a Security Council permanent member, China will of course implement all relevant resolutions,” he said. “But the US should not use their domestic laws as excuses to levy sanctions against Chinese financial institutions.”

Speaking ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Zhu also called on leading economies to cooperate on global steel overproduction rather than engage in finger-pointing, since overcapacity could harm global growth.

In Beijing, the foreign ministry warned against “words and deeds” that could heighten tensions over North Korea.

Tuesday’s launch marked a milestone in Pyongyang’s decades-long drive for the capability to threaten the US mainland with a nuclear strike, and poses a stark foreign policy challenge for Donald Trump.  

“We also call on relevant parties to stay calm, exercise restraint, refrain from words and deeds that may heighten tensions, and jointly make effort for the easing of tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.  

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council Wednesday that Washington was ready to use force if need be to deal with the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea and singled out China as key to any diplomatic solution.  

Her comments came after US President Donald Trump berated China on Twitter, saying that the country’s trade with North Korea had surged by almost 40 percent in the first quarter.  

“We will work with China,” Haley said, “but we will not repeat the inadequate approaches of the past that have brought us to this dark day.”

The United States is pushing for tougher sanctions on North Korea following the ICBM test.  

Geng defended China’s dealings with North Korea, insisting that Beijing has upheld UN sanction resolutions “in a comprehensive and earnest manner”.  But, he added, “as a neighbouring country of the DPRK, China has maintained normal economic relations and trade. According to the DPRK-related resolutions, relevant economic sanctions should not harm the livelihood and normal humanitarian need of the DPRK,” he said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.  

‘WE HAD TO TRY’

Mr Trump has pushed China to put economic pressure on its Communist ally economically to strong-arm the Stalinist regime into abandoning its nuclear and missile programmes.  Official Chinese customs data shows a 37.4 per cent rise in yuan terms in overall trade and 30.6 per cent in US dollars.  But China decided to stop buying North Korean coal in February and total imports from the North have steadily dropped every month from US$207 million in January to US$99 million in April.

“Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 per cent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday.  

The US leader had until recently nurtured friendly ties with Mr Xi, hosting him at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in April, when they agreed on a 100-day plan to improve US-Chinese trade relations.  The two leaders are due to meet again at the G-20 summit in Germany, which runs on Friday and Saturday.