President Obama made the case to Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday that he needs to rethink his country's approach toward North Korea now that North Korea has announced its intention to defy the international community and launch a long-range missile.
Over the past two days here, Obama and his aides have openly criticized China -- which is the closest ally and patron of North Korea -- for years of "turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations" by the regime in Pyongyang.
During a 90-minute bilateral meeting ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit, Obama personally pressed China's president to use his country's influence to persuade North Korea to ditch its plan for the satellite launch next month.
"The bottom line is a message that North Korea's new leadership has to understand that they're not going to be rewarded for provocation, that, in fact, they're only going to suffer," said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
The tough rhetoric against North Korea comes less than four weeks after the regime announced it would pause its uranium-enrichment program and allow United Nations inspectors back into the country.
It was a move that spurred cautious optimism that new supreme leader Kim Jong Un may look to bring the regime out of isolation.
Less than two weeks after announcing a freeze of its nuclear program, however, North Korea announced it would launch into orbit a long-range missile with a satellite attached to it to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founding leader.
The Obama administration quickly called for North Korea to cancel plans for the launch, saying the move would be a direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Obama has also said that the planned satellite launch would likely lead to the cancellation of the delivery of 240,000 pounds in food aid that the U.S. pledged to send the North Koreans after they announced they were freezing their nuclear program.
As the president has turned up the rhetoric against North Korea, he also has been tough on Beijing's relationship with Pyongyang.
"My suggestion to China is that how they communicate their concerns to North Korea should probably reflect the fact that the approach (China has) taken over the last several decades hasn't led to a fundamental shift in North Korea's behavior," Obama said.
In the meeting with Hu, as well as a separate meeting with President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Obama also urged the leaders to take tougher action against Syria, which has been mired in a violent crackdown by the Bashar Assad regime that has left some 10,000 dead since opposition protests erupted last year. Both Russia and China have blocked U.N. Security Council efforts to impose tougher sanctions against Syria.
Hu, Medvedev and Obama all acknowledged there are stark differences on the Syria issue, even as all three leaders have embraced a Security Council statement issued last week in support of efforts by special envoy Kofi Annan to negotiate a cease-fire in the conflict, funnel aid to victims and begin a political transition.
Although Obama and Medvedev agreed they could find common ground in backing Annan's mission, the leaders still appear deeply divided.
"We need to make sure that we do not end up in greater problems than we already have, and that the threat of the civil war is averted, that it does not become reality," Medvedev said after his meeting with Obama.
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