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US Congressman To China: Help More with North Korea - 2002-12-10

A senior U.S. congressman is asking China to do more to help stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Representative Henry Hyde put the request to China's President Jiang Zemin Tuesday in Beijing.

Congressman Henry Hyde said China's ties to neighboring North Korea mean it "has the ear" of the isolated country's leadership. "What we want is for China to use its leverage because it has great influence with North Korea through its economic support, food and that sort of thing," Mr. Hyde said. Mr. Hyde, who heads the House of Representatives influential committee on international relations, made the comments during the last leg of a trip to Asia. He said Chinese officials indicated that they would "do what they can" but made no specific commitments. Washington said North Korea admitted in October that it was working to build nuclear bombs, violating international agreements.

China has said there should be no nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. Beijing recently joined Russia in urging Washington and Pyongyang to improve their badly strained relations.

In a speech to university students Tuesday, Mr. Hyde said North Korea is a "despotic" and "seemingly irrational" country where millions of people suffer from starvation. He said Pyongyang's problems are spilling over the border with China, which may motivate Beijing to persuade its fellow communist government to solve its problems.

"China has begun to directly experience the first tremors of this approaching earthquake, as seen in the increasing number of refugees fleeing from North Korea and the problems this has created in China's relations with the international community," Mr. Hyde said.

During his visit, Mr. Hyde also raised human rights concerns with President Jiang. He specifically spoke about three people China has jailed for what Washington considers the peaceful expression of political beliefs.

China sometimes reconsiders the sentences of such prisoners when official U.S. visitors bring them up.

Mr. Hyde told his university audience Washington will continue to make human rights a cornerstone of its foreign policy. U.S. and Chinese officials are scheduled to hold talks on human rights issues next week in Beijing.