Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

North Korea on everyone's agenda

John Key will talk to China's leader about the nuclear threat and importance of influence to avert any crisis

The North Korea security crisis will be high on tomorrow's agenda when Prime Minister John Key meets new President of China, Xi Jinping, on the Chinese tropical island of Hainan, at the Boao Forum for Asia.

Earlier in the day, Mr Key has a formal meeting with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who is attending the forum.

Mr Key will also discuss the crisis with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard tonight, including what to do with the thousands of Kiwis and Australians living in South Korea in the event of conflict.

North Korea's military has been "cleared" to wage an attack on the United States and it says it is planning to reopen a previously closed nuclear reactor. While there are doubts about North Korea's nuclear capability, the United States has responded by saying it will send a missile defence system to Guam.

China is one of North Korea's few friends, although on the UN Security Council, it backed sanctions against North Korea after it conducted a nuclear test in February.

Mr Key said he wanted to talk to President Xi about the "significant role that China can play in hopefully averting a crisis on the Korean Peninsula".

"We will say the obvious - that the provocation is unwarranted, that we are very concerned about the destabilising impact that could have and the seriousness of the threats and that China has a unique relationship with North Korea where it can exercise influence."

The Boao meeting is the first leg of a week-long trip to China and Mr Key will be joined by Foreign Minister Murray McCully who will continue his campaign for a seat for New Zealand on the Security Council in 2015-16.

Mr McCully said there were no plans to evacuate New Zealanders.

There were 659 New Zealanders registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as being in South Korea and three in North Korea. The ministry advised New Zealanders in South Korea to register their details on safetravel.govt.nz; monitor the media to stay informed of developments and follow instructions from local authorities.

- NZ Herald

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