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What others say: North Korea is China's problem, too

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 1 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

The following editorial appeared recently in the Seattle Times:

The lethal menace and calculated instability comes out of the looney-tunes regime in North Korea, but throughout the current military crisis, all eyes are on China.

Expectations China will play an influential regional role come with the country's economic clout. Pyongyang listens to Beijing. Time for Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to tell China's delinquent neighbor to behave or suffer the consequences of losing its only sympathetic ally.

The United States stepped up beside its South Korean ally after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Joint military exercises are scheduled to run through Wednesday with an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS George Washington.

Tough-talking South Korean President Lee Myung-bak immediately ramped up his nation's military response, with a declaration the old rules of engagement for dealing with the erratic acts of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were no longer valid.

At the same time, he backed off the blustery rhetoric he routinely used against the north. Trying to out-bully a bully with nothing to lose is dangerous. Self-defense is one thing, trash talk is quite another.

Through days following the attack that killed four South Korean citizens, including two marines, and wounded 15 others, the public and back-channel diplomatic pressure has been on China.

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan were all looking to Beijing to act. North Korea is so broke and so insular it has no international pressure points. Squeeze off dribbles of trade, and Kim Jong-il and his heir apparent Kim Jong-un look to their patron.

China not only has geographical proximity, it has a lot to lose if North Korea provokes a military response. One can predict events would get very ugly, very quickly.

China's foreign-policy presence and its willingness to exert influence to match its economic stature is overdue. Time for China to accept the responsibility that goes with its presence in the world.

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