China says war must not be allowed on Korean Peninsula

South Korean President Moon Jae-In, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, applaud during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 15 December 2017
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China says war must not be allowed on Korean Peninsula

BEIJING: War must not be allowed to break out on the Korean peninsula and the issue must be resolved through talks, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the danger of “sleepwalking” into conflict.
Xi made his comments to visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in just days after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered to begin direct talks with North Korea without pre-conditions.
But the White House said on Wednesday that no negotiations could be held with North Korea until it improved its behavior. The White House has declined to say whether President Donald Trump, who has taken a tougher rhetorical line toward North Korea, approved Tillerson’s overture.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tillerson’s offer of direct contacts with North Korea was “a very good signal,” while warning that a US strike on the North would have catastrophic consequences.
North Korea tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile on Nov. 29, which it said could put all of the United States within range, in defiance of international pressure and UN sanctions.
While South Korea and China share the goal of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and stop testing increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles, the two have not seen eye-to-eye on how to achieve this.
Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Moon that the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula must be stuck to, and that war and chaos cannot be allowed to happen, state media said.
“The peninsula issue must in the end be resolved via dialogue and consultation,” Xi was cited as saying.
China and South Korea have an important shared interest in maintaining peace and stability, and China is willing to work with South Korea to prevent war and promote talks, Xi added.
China would support North and South Korea to improve relations as this was good for easing tension, he said.
Xi’s warm tone followed nearly a year of tense relations between the two countries.
China has been furious about the deployment of the US-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, saying its powerful radar can see far into China and will do nothing to ease tension with North Korea.
China and South Korea agreed in late October that they would normalize exchanges and move past the dispute over THAAD, which froze trade and business exchanges, and Moon has been keen to put the dispute behind them.
Xi reiterated China’s position on THAAD and said he hoped South Korea would continue to “appropriately handle” the issue.
Guterres, speaking to reporters in Tokyo after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said Security Council resolutions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs must be fully implemented by Pyongyang and other countries.
“It is very clear that the Security Council resolutions must be fully implemented, first of all by North Korea, but by all other countries whose role is crucial to ... achieve the result we all aim at, which is the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Guterres said.
He added that Security Council unity was also vital “to allow for the possibility of diplomatic engagement” that would allow denuclearization to take place.
“The worst possible thing that could happen is for us all to sleepwalk into a war that might have very dramatic circumstances,” Guterres said.
He said he expected a meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday would deliver a strong expression of unity and the need for diplomacy to resolve the issue.
Japan says now is the time to keep up maximum pressure on North Korea, not start talks on its missile and nuclear programs.
China and Russia, however, have welcomed Tillerson’s overture.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said a strike on North Korea by the US would have catastrophic consequences and that he hoped to work with Washington eventually to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Russia does not accept North Korea’s nuclear status, Putin told an annual news conference. But he also said that some of Washington’s past actions had provoked North Korea into violating a 2005 pact to curb its nuclear program.
“We believe the two sides should now stop aggravating the situation,” Putin said.
North Korea justifies its weapons program as necessary defense against US plans to invade. The US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.
 


Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018
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Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

  • Trilateral talks also focused on boosting trust and security between the three countries
  • FM Qureshi extends the olive branch for a new chapter with Kabul

KABUL: Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China held a trilateral meeting in Kabul on Saturday where they discussed measures to boost political trust and join hands for a regional war against militancy which would facilitate the Afghan peace process, even as Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

The meeting was the second one to take place after Beijing had initiated the talks in December last year in order to ease the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad whose relationship is highly critical for Beijing’s growing economic and political clout in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, China has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan and is actively using its influence to bring the two South Asian neighbors closer.

Pakistan has long been accused by Afghanistan and the US of providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban leaders, by funding and arming them since their ouster in late 2001.

Islamabad has denied the allegations.

After the meeting on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed for a new chapter with Afghanistan, adding that the ongoing blame game would not help in achieving peace or building trust between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said that the Daesh and militants from Central Asia and eastern China were against the peace process in Afghanistan, urging for joint efforts to tackle the extremism.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan. Let us not stick to the past and stop pointing a finger on Pakistan… I came here to build trust and bridges and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” Qureshi told a news conference.

The three countries signed an agreement pushing for joint efforts in the war against militancy with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, saying that the coming weeks and months will be highly crucial in evaluating Pakistan’s intentions and its role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Officials from both Afghanistan and Pakistan have held a number of meetings in recent years to mend bilateral ties and work towards measures to fight militancy. However, those talks were an exercise in futility as they were followed by the two countries trading accusations and resorting to the blame game. Rabbani said that “the time has come (for Pakistan) to practically show with genuine steps” that it will fulfill its pledges.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described both Afghanistan and Pakistan as its strategic partners, adding that China had great political trust in the two. He asked both the countries to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner and backed the US’ efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, urging the militant group to get involved in the process. 

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process. Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China is important to bring peace to Afghanistan.” 

The three sides emphasized the importance of regional connectivity and economic development between them. 

Saturday’s meeting took place at a time when Washington is stepping up its efforts to hold talks with the Taliban by meeting with regional powers on how to end the US war in Afghanistan which began more than 17 years ago.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday’s agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

However, at the same time, he was optimistic about positive results, reasoning that the situation had changed when compared to the past with the US increasing its efforts for talks with the Taliban.

“Such meetings can be helpful in mending ties between the countries and in helping them come closer to achieving a peace plan,” he told Arab News.