US, China 'must find way forward' on North Korea

  • 28/01/2016
US Secretary of State John Kerry (Reuters)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (Reuters)

By David Brunnstrom and Megha Rajagopalan

The United States and China must find a way forward on reining in North Korea's nuclear program and easing tension in the South China Sea, US Secretary of State John Kerry says.

Kerry, on a two-day visit to Beijing, is expected to press China to push for more curbs on North Korea after it said it had successfully conducted a test of a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear device on January 6.

Beijing, Pyongyang's lone major backer, has criticised remarks by State Department officials urging China to do more as irresponsible, saying it has made great efforts to achieve denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

Kerry told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Though on Wednesday (local time) the US and China had made good progress on issues from climate change to counter-terrorism but "clearly we have several important issues that we need to find the way forward on", according to a pool report of their meeting.

"One is the nuclear program of the DPRK, North Korea, a major challenge to global security, one of the most important issues for the security of the United States of America," Kerry said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The 15-member UN Security Council said at the time of North Korea's test that it would begin working on significant new measures in response, a threat diplomats said could mean an expansion of sanctions.

Since then, diplomats said Washington and Beijing have been primarily negotiating on a draft resolution, but when asked on Saturday if they were nearing agreement, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said no.

In a sign that Beijing could be reluctant to take a more hardline stance on North Korea, state news agency Xinhua said it was "unrealistic to rely merely on China to press the DPRK to abandon its nuclear program, as long as the US continues an antagonistic approach wrought from a Cold War mentality".

"Bear in mind that China-DPRK ties should not be understood as a top-down relationship where the latter follows every bit of advice offered by the former," Xinhua said.

Kerry also told Wang that the two countries had to make progress on "concerns and activities in the South China Sea".

China claims almost all the disputed waters in the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

It has been building up facilities on islands it controls, angering the Philippines and Vietnam and drawing criticism from the United States, which has expressed deep concern that the construction will exacerbate tension in the region.