'Sanctions unlikely to resolve' North Korea nuclear issue

The United Nations (UN) may have passed its harshest sanctions against Pyongyang but it is unlikely to stop the North Korean nuclear issue from flaring up again, said China's parliamentary spokesman Fu Ying.

"The Korean peninsula has always been a weak point in East Asian security, often slipping into tense situations," she said.

Ms Fu was speaking at a press conference yesterday, ahead of today's opening of the National People's Congress, China's annual parliamentary session. "This is not the first time and I don't think it will be the last as well," she added, in response to a question from The Straits Times on the latest flare-up in tensions on the Korean peninsula and how China plans to handle the nuclear issue.

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council voted to impose its fifth set of sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang conducted its latest nuclear test on Jan 6 and long-range rocket launch last month, both of which defied previous international sanctions.

Ms Fu also pledged China's commitment to "rigorously enforce" the new sanctions amid criticism that Beijing - Pyongyang's largest trading partner - has, in the past, failed to do so. She said the lack of a peace treaty between Pyongyang and Seoul is a key reason the security issue keeps recurring.

"Up till now, there is only an over- 60-year-old Korean War armistice but no peace agreement signed. So, theoretically, the relevant countries are still at war on the Korean peninsula," Ms Fu said.

She added that the deep distrust between the United States and North Korea has led to the current state of affairs, and repeated China's previous call for all parties to return to six-party talks.

"Over the years, China has been actively mediating and organising six-party talks, and the talks have indeed achieved some results to ease the situation," said Ms Fu.

"But from the entire process, you can also see the depth of distrust between the US and North Korea... The two sides are even more opposed and North Korea has gone further down the path of developing nuclear weapons."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline ''Sanctions unlikely to resolve' North Korea nuclear issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe