China Urged to Intercede in N. Korea Nuke Talks

Chinese President Hu Jintao is having a lunch meeting with President Bush at the White House on Thursday, and a top agenda item is China's strategy to block North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Alex Chadwick speaks with Ambassador Wendy R. Sherman, who served as a special advisor to the Secretary of State during President Clinton's administration, about how China could use its clout to lower the threat of nuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


First the lead.

President HU JINTAO (President): (Through Translator) As our friends know, that on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula China has always been making constructive efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

CHADWICK: China's President Hu Jintao speaking at an unexpected question and answer session with reporters today. He and President Bush have apparently made no progress in their White House talks on China's role in nuclear non-proliferation efforts with North Korea and Iran. Ambassador Mary Sherman coordinated North Korea policy curing the Clinton Administration. We spoke earlier.

China has been able to use its influence with North Korea to help non-proliferation talks with the United States. Can the Chinese, do you think, play a similar role with Iran?

Ms. WENDY R. SHERMAN (Special Advisor to the Secretary of State, Clinton Administration): Well, I think China is a very important player where it comes to Iran. But I think both in the case of Iran and North Korea, although the Chinese are very critical, the United States is probably more important. And in both cases, the U.S. has to engage diplomatically with sufficient carrots and sticks to really make a difference. Though of course we want China to use its pressure and influence and its incentives as well.

CHADWICK: How significant has that participation been by China on North Korea specifically?

Ms. SHERMAN: I think China has played an important role. They are the conveners of the six-party talks. They supply more energy and food to North Korea than anyone. They have higher level relationships with North Korea on a regular and consistent basis. They have, in fact, drafted communiques and statements, and played a very active role. And I think it's important for their role in the region, their role in the world. But it's also important that the United States not give away its national security interests to China.

CHADWICK: It sounds as though you're saying China is the carrot part of the approach to North Korea.

Ms. SHERMAN: I think China is playing a very difficult role here because although it wants stability in the region, and wants to be the power in the region, it also is very careful about what Bob Zoellick who is the point person for the U.S. government has called the responsible stakeholder role.

CHADWICK: Ms. Ambassador, I don't know if you personally have dealt with the Chinese, but do you know their diplomatic style and how they go through these negotiations with the Bush White House or with North Korea?

Ms. SHERMAN: I have indeed been with the Chinese on many occasions and met with them on a regular basis around negotiations with North Korea and a number of other issues. In the past, their negotiators and their diplomats have often come to the table with very few instructions, always having to call back to see where they go next. In more recent times, Chinese have come to the table much more sophisticated, ready to negotiate, with greater flexibility and more authority. I think that's good for the United States and I think it's good for the Chinese.

CHADWICK: If you were advising the President today in these talks, Ms. Ambassador, what is the one thing you would want China to say, okay, we're going to X?

Ms. SHERMAN: I think I would want China to say that we are going to join the world. We are going to be a responsible stakeholder. We will make sure that this world is free of nuclear weapons and new nuclear weapons powers like Iran and North Korea. And we will work harder at our trade and getting a balance to make sure that as globalization goes forward, that all boats rise with it, and that Americans' prosperity does not have to be diminished as ours increases.

CHADWICK: Ambassador Wendy Sherman speaking from Washington. Thank you, Ms. Ambassador.

Ms. SHERMAN: Thank you.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.