The United States and China committed on Saturday to a process aimed at ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons, with the Obama administration gaining at least the rhetorical support of the only government that can exert significant influence over the reclusive North.
The question now is whether Beijing will make good on its pledge to uphold “peace and stability” and work with Washington on achieving the goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
The declarations from both nations’ foreign policy chiefs came as North Korea appears to be readying a missile test that has caused grave concern for the US and its two close Asian allies, South Korea and Japan.
“We are able — the United States and China — to underscore our joint commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner,” US secretary of state John Kerry told reporters in Beijing before having dinner with State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
Kerry and Yang said they’d seek a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear standoff, which has only grown worse in recent months under its young leader Kim Jong Un.
In Seoul on Friday, Kerry said President Barack Obama had cancelled a number of military exercises planned with South Korea. The message that the US wasn’t seeking a military confrontation was directed as much to the North as to Beijing.
The Obama administration believes it may now have greater scope for diplomatic progress.
It has pointed to new President Xi Jinping’s recent criticism of the North as illustrative of a subtle shift in China’s outlook.
Beijing also has backed UN penalties in response to North’s tests of a nuclear device and intercontinental ballistic missile technology over the past four months.