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(2nd LD) S. Korean president calls for China's role in reining in N. Korea

All Headlines 15:50 November 28, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments, other details, Lee's plan to deliver public speech; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, Nov. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak formally asked China Sunday to take a "fair and responsible" attitude toward North Korea's belligerent behavior that jeopardizes the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, Lee's office Cheong Wa Dae said.

Lee delivered the message to Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who arrived in Seoul Saturday night at the order of Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, it added.

In their two-hour meeting, the president requested that "China act in a fairer and more responsible way in dealing with South-North Korea relations and contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula," senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public affairs Hong Sang-pyo told reporters.

Military tensions have escalated sharply since the North launched an unprovoked artillery strike on a populated South Korean border island in the Yellow Sea last week, which killed two marines and two civilians. Pyongyang threatened an all-out war as Seoul and Washington began their largest-ever joint naval drills earlier Sunday that included a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier.

The president pointed out that the North's attack on civilians, which came on the heels of its revelation of a new uranium enrichment facility, marked a "grave change" in the security condition on the peninsula, Hong said.

The president made it clear that although South Korea has tolerated the North's ceaseless provocations since the 1950-53 Korean War, Seoul will "strongly respond" should it make another attack, Hong said.

Lee's blunt remarks came as "strategic partnership" between Seoul and Beijing was put to a test again with Pyongyang's latest deadly attack. Many agree that China has the biggest political and economic leverage over its communist ally North, while some say Beijing's influence is increasingly waning amid Pyongyang's recalcitrance as shown in its two nuclear tests.

Lee "asked China to play a role to match its new status in dealing with inter-Korean relations to pursue coexistence and peace in the 21st century after the end of the Cold War in the 20th century," the senior secretary said.

Dai, conveying a verbal message from Chinese leaders, expressed his condolences over the loss of lives in the North's attack on Yeonpyeong Island last Tuesday.

He also pledged that China will "work to prevent a worsening of the situation for peace between South and North Korea," the Cheong Wa Dae official said.

Hong said the top Chinese official was visiting Seoul "virtually as a special envoy of President Hu and Premier Wen." He refused to confirm reports that Dai is expected to head to Pyongyang after his trip here.

Meanwhile, the South Korean president plans to deliver a special public speech, to be broadcast live, Monday morning to clarify the government's position on the North's provocation and inter-Korean ties, his office announced.

lcd@yna.co.kr
(END)

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