China Calls For Emergency Meetings To Calm Korea Tension

China's government Sunday issued a urgent call for a diplomatic conference to talk about heightened tension between North and South Korea. China's invitation comes as the U.S. and South Korea have started joint military maneuvers. Host Liane Hansen speaks with NPR's Louisa Lim about the heightened tensions between North and South Korea.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.

China's government today issued an urgent call for a diplomatic conference, to talk about heightened tension between North and South Korea. China's invitation comes as the U.S. and South Korea have started joint military maneuvers.

NPR's Louisa Lim is on the line from Beijing. Hi, Louisa.

LOUISA LIM: Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: Tell us exactly what China is proposing.

LIM: Well, China wants the envoys to the six-party talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament to come to Beijing for emergency meetings in early December. It's not a resumption of the six-party talks, but it is to exchange ideas and opinions on the crisis at the moment. So clearly, Beijing is trying to recapture the diplomatic initiative. Above all, it wants to show that it is doing something.

Mr. ARONOFSKY: The thing that's been most interesting is getting these guys who come in, who have no interest in ballet and dance, and hear them say, oh, the ballet sequences were so beautiful. So getting that beauty next to the pain and the blood and the angst, it will - hopefully - give people something different to see that they've never seen before.

So by making this offer to broker the talks, this is Beijing's way of showing that it recognizes the urgency of the situation, and it is trying to pull its weight.

HANSEN: So what's the reaction to China's diplomatic offer?

LIM: Well, so far it's been pretty lukewarm. South Korea's response has been quite confused. Initially, they seemed to say that the time now wasn't right. But now, there seems to have been a change in stance, and the South Koreans are saying they will consider the proposal very carefully. It appears there's some disagreement among political parties in South Korea over whether to support these talks or not.

Japan has been quite noncommittal. It says it wants to respond cautiously while cooperating closely with South Korea and the U.S. And we've had no word yet from the other parties. The U.S., clearly, will want to consult with its allies in the region. And Russia and North Korea - neither of them have yet said anything about whether they'll attend or not, though North Korea has been calling for talks in the past, so one would assume that China has put enough pressure on North Korea to get it to attend.

HANSEN: We only have about 30 seconds left. Louisa, is it possible to sum up what's been happening in the latest news today from North and South Korea?

LIM: Well, there was a massive military exercise between South Korea and the U.S., and that started today in the Yellow Sea. And we're seeing a lot of tension in that region. On the island of Yongpyong - the island that was attacked by North Korea, causing four casualties - there were more reports of artillery fire today, but no shells landed on the island.

Yonhap has reported that North Korea has deployed surface-to-air missiles near the Yellow Sea. And North Korea is saying the peninsula is in a state of ultra-emergency today.

HANSEN: NPR's Beijing correspondent, Louisa Lim. Louisa, thank you.

LIM: Thank you, Liane.

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