A: After President Xi Jinping took office in China we were able to see some changes, which President Obama also referred to as positive. I believe that China can exert more influence on [North] Korea, I think they can do more. . . . In order for North Korea to change, and in order for the Korean Peninsula to enjoy greater peace, North Korea needs to choose the right path, and China should exert greater influence in inducing North Korea to do so.
You have a good relationship with the new president of China and you are going to visit China soon. China has recently distanced itself from North Korea. Is China prepared to cooperate more with your government and the United States in respect to curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions?
When I meet with President Xi Jinping I look forward to engaging in very candid discussions with him on issues that encompass North Korea, its nuclear weapons, as well as peace and stability in Northeast Asia. I also hope to be able to engage in candid discussions with him about whether, if North Korea decides not to become a responsible member of the international community, and chooses not to take the right path, whether this current path that it is taking is sustainable. Is there a future there?
What more could China do?
Of course, we can’t expect China to do everything, and the Chinese also say they can’t do everything. But I do believe there’s room for them to undertake more with respect to some material aspects. At the same time China has been able to achieve growth and development through reform and opening, and I think this offers a very good model for [North] Korea to follow, and so they can perhaps strengthen their persuasion of Korea in this regard.
What do you mean by material aspects?
North Korea is very heavily dependent on China.
How do you assess Korean-Japanese relations?
I remember eight years ago, when I had an interview with The Washington Post, that was also a time when the North Korean nuclear crisis was ongoing, and when the Japanese were also making comments about [disputed islands], thereby raising the temperature between Korea and Japan. Eight years later I’m very disappointed and frustrated to see that we haven’t made any progress. Japan and [South] Korea share many things in common — our shared values of democracy, freedom and a market economy — and there is a need for us to cooperate on North Korea and on economic issues as well as security issues. . . . But the Japanese have been opening past wounds and have been letting them fester, and this applies not only to Korea but also to other neighboring countries. . . . This arrests our ability to really build momentum, so I hope that Japan reflects upon itself.
How dangerous are the tensions among Japan, China and other countries in the region, and what more could the United States do?