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Nations Differ in Their Response to North Korea’s Missile Tests

Last week Pyongyang test fired seven missiles, including a long-range ballistic missile that crashed into the Sea of Japan about 40 seconds after launch.

Japan is pushing for U.N. sanctions against North Korea. But on Wednesday China and Russia introduced a new resolution to the Security Council that “urges” – but does not demand – that North Korea institute a moratorium on further missile tests. And South Korea has said it will not resume food aid to the North until Pyongyang returns to six-party talks on its nuclear program.

Johangir Pocha, Beijing-based correspondent for the Boston Globe, says China does not share U.S. and Japanese alarm over last week’s missile tests.

Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Mr. Pocha says Chinese leaders view North Korea as a very insecure and militarized state and the worst thing to do is to “stoke its anxieties and make it feel more insecure.” Furthermore, Johangir Pocha finds it “interesting” that a lot of analysts have told him – off the record – that China “kind of likes the situation on the Korean Peninsula to be what it is because it suddenly makes China an indispensable geo-political player on the world stage.” But, he adds it is unclear what degree of influence Beijing actually exerts over Pyongyang.

Like China, which has veto power on the Security Council, Russia opposes U.N. sanctions. Dmitri Siderov, Washington bureau chief of the Moscow business and commercial daily, Kommersant, says the Kremlin does not believe North Korea poses a real threat.

And the Russians, too, want to show the world that they are “quite important – not only in Iran and in the Palestinian conflict, but definitely in North Korea.”

Meanwhile, high-level talks between North and South Korea that began Wednesday in Busan, South Korea, collapsed Thursday.

Sung Joon Kim, Washington correspondent for the Seoul Broadcasting System, says South Korea wants to send a message to North Korea that the international community, including South Korea, is deeply worried about Pyongyang’s provocative actions. But at the same time, he explains, South Korea believes persuasion is the most effective way to deal with the North so Seoul has been trying to “involve the North in economic, social, and cultural cooperation with the South.

Jehangir Pocha says Beijing and Seoul agree that U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang are unwise. And Mr. Pocha notes that many people have been urging the United States to talk directly with North Korea.

Although some regional analysts were hopeful that Pyongyang might accept Beijing’s proposal for reviving six-party nuclear attacks, U.S. top envoy Christopher Hill said that the North Koreans have not responded to China’s effort to bring them to the negotiating table, and there were no new breakthroughs during talks in Pyongyang.

Inter-Korean talks in Busan, South Korea, have also broken down - with the North refusing either to promise not to launch any more missiles or to return to the six-party talks.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.