The US and China on Wednesday agreed to support new UN sanctions against North Korea following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test earlier this month but Beijing cautioned that the move should not escalate tensions in the region.
After his talks with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry said North Korea poses an “overt threat, a declared threat to the world”.
“The US will do what is necessary to protect our country and our friends and allies in the world,” Kerry said during a news conference with Wang.
The two sides had agreed on an “accelerated effort” at the UN to reach a “strong resolution that introduces significant new measures” to curtail the reclusive communist country’s ability to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, he said.
“We agreed that the UN Security Council needs to take further action and pass a new resolution,” Wang said. “In the meantime, we must point out that the new resolution should not provoke new tensions.”
Wang rejected assertions that Beijing could do more to denuclearise North Korea, describing it as “groundless speculation”.
China is North Korea’s closest ally and key economic benefactor but had strongly criticised the latest nuclear test.
Kerry indicated China should use its economic leverage over North Korea to get it back to talks on denuclearisation. Reuters quoted Kerry as saying that “shipping, aviation, trade of resources, including coal and fuel, and security at border customs, were key areas in the sanctions debate”.
If Washington and Beijing appeared to agree on North Korea, their stands on the tense South China Sea remained a clear point of difference.
“China has given a commitment of not engaging in so-called militarisation, and we will honor that commitment,” Wang said. “We cannot accept the allegation that China’s words are not being matched by action”.
A strongly word commentary by state-run Xinhua news agency said: “As US Secretary of State John Kerry raised ‘concerns’ about the South China Sea during his Asia tour, he may have been unaware of one thing: the US meddling in the issue is an ill-considered move, which could boomerang and escalate regional tensions.”
It was “advisable that Washington plays a constructive role in promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region...instead of sowing discord, because (muddying) the waters in the South China Sea could blow up in Washington’s face”, the commentary added.