S. Korean Defense Official: China Can Play ‘More Responsible’ Role

BY Margaret Warner  January 18, 2011 at 2:05 PM EDT

SEOUL, South Korea | On the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington — with the North Korea issue near the top of the agenda between him and President Obama — I sat down in Seoul with South Korea’s Deputy Defense Minister for Policy, Chang Gwang Il.

While we spoke mostly about the current tensions between North and South Korea, at the end of our session we touched briefly on China. Mr. Chang said China “can definitely play a more responsible role.”

Here, in full, were his remarks on China as translated by a South Korean Ministry of Defense interpreter:

MARGARET WARNER: Would North Korea be as formidable a military adversary if it were not for China’s support?

CHANG GWANG IL: I think there is much military cooperation and economic support from China to North Korea. And I think that could be seen during Cheonan incident and the Yeonpyeong artillery shelling that occurred last year. I think that China can definitely play a more responsible role within the international community.

WARNER: Do you think they’re assisting the North Korean militarily, and if so, how?

CHANG: Although I don’t think there is any direct military support from China, I think there might be some indirect support, such as the supply of fuel.

WARNER: How concerned are you about China more broadly flexing its muscle in the region?

CHANG: It’s an undeniable fact that China’s military power is growing. And I think with this economic and military advance, I think there must be an attitude and measures that fit in with the demands of the international community.

For more on South Korea and China, watch Margaret Warner’s report on Tuesday’s NewsHour. Video edited by Larisa Epatko