The United States and China have “achieved a very strong degree of consensus” on North Korea, US envoy Glyn Davies said Friday after meetings in Beijing following Pyongyang saying it planned another nuclear test.
“We come here in the wake of some dramatic steps,” he told reporters in Beijing. Referring to the North’s earlier threat to take “physical counter-measures” against the South, he added that the comments were “troubling and counter-productive”.
Davies, the US special representative for North Korea policy, said he had had wide-ranging discussions with Chinese officials on “all aspects of the North Korea issue”, adding that the meeting “achieved a very strong degree of consensus”.
Both sides agreed that “a nuclear test would be troubling and a setback to the efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula”, he said.
They also agreed that UN resolution 2087, passed earlier this week expanding sanctions against Pyongyang, was an “appropriate response and an important and strong response” to the North’s rocket launch last month.
As North Korea’s main economic lifeline, China is seen as the only country with any genuine leverage over the impoverished, isolated and nuclear-armed state — although Pyongyang has long played on Chinese fears of the consequences of North Korea’s collapse to defy Beijing’s efforts.
The UN resolution was the product of long negotiations between Washington and Beijing, with envoys saying China had sought to shield Pyongyang from stronger sanctions.
In an unusually frank warning on Friday, China’s state-run media indicated that Beijing would decrease aid to Pyongyang if it goes ahead with an atomic test.
“If North Korea engages in further nuclear tests, China will not hesitate to reduce its assistance,” the Global Times, which is close to China’s ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial.
“China hopes for a stable peninsula, but it’s not the end of the world if there’s trouble there,” it added.
China is the North’s leading energy supplier and trade partner and is seen as one of the few nations able to influence Pyongyang’s behaviour, with the comments adding a distinctive edge to its typical official calls for stability and dialogue.
The editorial also expressed discontent at North Korean criticism of Beijing for backing a UN Security Council resolution this week that condemned Pyongyang’s rocket launch last month and imposed sanctions.
The resolution only passed after lengthy negotiations between the US and China, which wields a Security Council veto and sought to shield Pyongyang from tougher measures, envoys said.