Leaders have duty to get Pyongyang back to talks
Hu Jintao and Barack Obama may not agree on the value of the yuan, arms sales to Taiwan and human rights, but on North Korea, there should not be any argument. The North's threats and attacks are putting at risk East Asia's prosperity. There is a danger that events precipitated by the rogue nation could spin out of control, dragging the region into a conflict it has tried so hard to avoid.
The leaders have a duty to get the six-party talks, the best chance for a solution, back on track.
No countries are better placed to make that happen than China and the US. China is the North's lifeline for food and fuel, the closest ally in a world that Pyongyang has intentionally isolated itself from. South Korea and Japan fear the North's nuclear know-how and missiles, but have grown tired of its tricks to get their economic aid. Only the US, their military and diplomatic partner in Asia, can provide the impetus to nudge them back to talks.
That has got to happen quickly. Twice in the past year, North Korea has attacked South Korean targets, taking lives and threatening what has passed for peace in the six decades since the Korean war. Seoul has shown remarkable restraint, but that cannot again be counted on.
China and the US have been working behind the scenes to calm tempers. No formal statements have been made, but there was evidence in the North last week that it might invite the South to talks on economic ties, and positive comments from officials in Seoul. That in itself is not comforting for the region: Pyongyang's erratic ways have taught observers to view its every action with scepticism. It is renowned for making offers and pledges, getting financial and humanitarian gains, then reneging on the deals.
That presumably was behind the North's sudden pulling out of the Beijing-hosted six-nation talks two years ago, leaving China, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia in a quandary. Getting Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear programme and make peace will not be straightforward; the best hope lies in China, with US help.