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US, China to cooperate on 'dangerous' N.Korea situation

Updated Mar 18, 2017 06:01pm


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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands at the end of a joint press conference at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. ─ AFP
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands at the end of a joint press conference at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. ─ AFP

The US and China pledged on Saturday to work together in addressing the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programme, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the situation had reached a “dangerous level.”

The language from Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart after talks in Beijing was notably conciliatory after a run-up in which US President Donald Trump accused China of doing nothing to control its rogue neighbour while Beijing blamed Washington for fuelling hostilities.

“I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions in the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level,” Tillerson said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“We will work together to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a different course, make a course correction, and move away from the development of nuclear weapons,” Yi added.

Tillerson arrived in Beijing earlier Saturday after visits to US allies Japan and South Korea where he said the US would no longer observe the “failed” approach of patient diplomacy favoured by Beijing and followed by the Obama administration.

Trump upped the pressure in a Friday Twitter blast accusing Beijing of failing to use its leverage as North Korea's key diplomatic and trade partner.

“North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!” Trump said.

The tougher US talk followed two North Korean nuclear tests last year and recent missile launches, including a salvo earlier this month that Pyongyang described as practice for an attack on US bases in Japan.

Beijing is deeply reluctant to put harsh pressure on the unpredictable North lest it trigger a confrontation or a messy regime collapse.

China has hit back at the US, angrily accusing it of escalating the situation by holding military exercises with its ally Seoul and deploying an anti-missile system in South Korea.

Beijing has been calling for a resumption of diplomatic negotiations with North Korea on dismantling its nuclear programme ─ which UN resolutions bar it from pursuing ─ a track pursued for years in the past but which notably failed.

“We can either let the situation aggravate and lead to conflict or go back to the right track of negotiations,” Wang said.

“We both hope to find ways to restart talks and do not give up hope for peace.”

Neither side indicated any next steps.

Tillerson, a former Exxon oil executive who until this week had adopted a low profile in office, said in Seoul on Friday that the US and its allies were “exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, economic measures.” He gave no details but said US military action against North Korea remained “on the table” if Pyongyang escalated its provocations.

China has taken shots at his get-tough approach, saying in recent days that its call for diplomatic talks was the “only feasible option” and challenging the Trump administration to propose something better. One reason for the amicable tone on Saturday may be that delicate negotiations are ongoing for President Xi Jinping to visit Trump ─ a frequent China critic ─ in a first summit between the leaders next month in the United States.

Tillerson was expected to meet Xi on Sunday morning.

Beijing shares US concerns over Pyongyang's nuclearisation but is careful not to provoke North Korea. But China took one of its toughest steps yet in February, announcing it would halt all imports of North Korean coal ─ a key source of income for the impoverished state ─ for the rest of this year, citing the UN sanctions.

The United Nations has imposed multiple sets of sanctions but China is accused of not fully enforcing them.

Under the Obama administration, the US ruled out diplomatic engagement until Pyongyang made a tangible commitment to denuclearisation, hoping that internal stresses in the isolated country would bring change.

North Korea says it needs to be able to defend itself, and conducted its first underground atomic test in 2006, triggering global condemnation. Four more test blasts have followed.

Beijing also is upset over the US deployment of an anti-missile system to South Korea that Washington and Seoul insist is purely a defensive measure against a possible North Korean attack.

But Beijing says the system undermines its own security and has reacted angrily, imposing a series of measures seen in South Korea as economic retaliation.


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Comments (18) Closed

Saif Zulfiqar Mar 18, 2017 05:07pm

China & US are sitting together talking about peace is nothing new. They know that talking is the only way to solve even dangerous situations.

KT Mar 18, 2017 05:09pm

North Korea is poor nation and people seek their ruler to best position of respect as monopoly option of their survival. Instead of threatening North Korea if program are devised to ensure good living to existing people then North Korea will never choose extreme actions with whats its engaged. There is no point punishing innocent people of North Korea instead give food and better living for them and program their country towards success.

mangoman Mar 18, 2017 05:12pm

@KT Dude, you should read about all the initiatives especially taken by south Korea to entice the north into a path of development. None of them worked.

Scohlars Mar 18, 2017 05:20pm

Both are world best economies and could not afford war,cause anythird party may get the oppurtunity to ruke economically!

mOhmad Mar 18, 2017 05:22pm

Trumps decisions are black and white , no shade of grey , such a bold leader

mOhmad Mar 18, 2017 05:19pm

@KT this world doesn't promote begging .

Ahmed bin Babar Mar 18, 2017 06:34pm

South & North Korea should talk to each others as brothers without any outside interference...

Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Mar 18, 2017 06:44pm

What other options do they have?

Sanki Mar 18, 2017 06:58pm

@KT friend, a non rational dictator with nuclear weapon is threat to world peace. Here we are talking about it. No one is going to punish people of North Korea. If war happens then they will suffer from it, but anyway there current condition is horrible.

omveer Mar 18, 2017 09:34pm

North Korea is a pariah state with a history of nuclear blackmail. It's citizens are starving and yet it pursues compulsive hatred of South Korea. But the relationship between Pakistan and North Korea is also strong due to nuclear proliferation and hopefully continue

Mustafa R. Mar 18, 2017 09:44pm

'The language from Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart after talks in Beijing was notably conciliatory after '

China's language has always been conciliatory. It is Mr. Tillerson who has just realized that there is another superpower on this earth.

Zak Mar 19, 2017 12:06am

Super powers solving world problems. Hope they can solve regional problems like Kashmir and palistine.

Alba Mar 19, 2017 01:37am

@KT .... ... ...... The images Kim Jong Un doesn't want you to see: Haunting pictures inside North Korea... taken by a photographer who has now been banned from the rogue state for life ___

Photographer Eric Lafforgue took the 'banned' images during a visit to North Korea earlier this year.  __ 
Forbidden subjects include malnourished people, child labourers and a man collecting grass to eat.  __
Other photos that incurred the wrath of the regime included a shot of soldiers pushing a broken-down bus.   __  
Lafforgue says poverty is rare in Pyongyang because only the elite live there but things are tough elsewhere. __     

Read more:

Alba Mar 19, 2017 01:43am

@KT ..... Any food sent for the people is taken by the elite. What they don't want is given to the army. You need to be in uniform to eat well. In 2009, when when millions were starving (again) the people were not allowed to have businesses or even grow food and sell it at a market. People were eating one meal a day and students slept at their desks in the afternoons for lack of energy and to forget their hunger.

Alba Mar 19, 2017 01:47am

@Ahmed bin Babar .... Kim Jong-un wants to keep the people from talking to South Koreans, at all costs. He tells his people they are better off than the South Koreans who are starving.

Mike London Mar 19, 2017 01:46am

South and North Korea must merge and solve the problem

Alba Mar 19, 2017 01:51am

@Sanki ... ... Beijing is concerned because if there is a war North Korea will be one big jail break - with all the prisoners running for the Chinese border. The is what the North Korean people are - prisoners.

Abbas Mar 19, 2017 07:42am

Pakistan with China should take the lead in solving the festering problem in the Korean peninsula.#Pakistan4Korea.