China's UN envoy calls on Biden to ease North Korea pressure

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun (left) and US President Joe Biden.
Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun (left) and US President Joe Biden.PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (BLOOMBERG) - China's ambassador to the United Nations took the rotating presidency of the Security Council on Monday (May 3) by calling on the Biden administration to ease the economic pressure campaign on North Korea and engage in dialogue.

Referring to a recently completed White House review of North Korea policy, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said: "We hope the result of the review will give more importance to diplomatic efforts, to dialogue, instead of emphasising too much the importance of extreme pressure."

"Based on what we have seen in the past years we do believe that diplomatic efforts represent the right direction," said Mr Zhang, who will lead the Security Council for the month of May.

The envoy's comments come after US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday the Biden administration's policy towards North Korea "is not aimed at hostility" but at "achieving the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

North Korea has labelled President Joe Biden's comment that the Pyongyang's nuclear program is a threat as "intolerable".

It's not clear whether any US approach to North Korea would persuade Kim Jong Un's regime to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Even as Mr Kim and then-President Donald Trump met three times and developed a personal rapport, North Korea continued to develop its nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile programme.

Myanmar coup

Fielding questions on international hot spots that often come before the UN, Mr Zhang said he'd like to see the Security Council defer to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations when it comes to addressing the military coup in Myanmar.

Mr Zhang said that diplomacy should flow through Asean even though the military government rebuffed a plan by the region's leaders to help end violence in the country, saying any "suggestions" would need to fit with the junta's stated roadmap and come after "stability" is restored.

"The council is giving full support to the diplomatic efforts of Asean," he said.

"It's China's will that regional organisations should really play a vital role in tackling regional situations."

Mr Zhang said China's priorities as Security Council president in May include highlighting efforts to strengthen multilateralism, address regional conflicts in Africa and continue a focus on helping the world address the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of those efforts, Mr Zhang said Foreign Minister Wang Yi will host at least two virtual, high-level meetings in May.