US, China call for new resolution on N. Korea

Mr Kerry and Mr Wang at a Beijing press conference yesterday. While the US and China were united against a nuclear- armed North Korea, they found less common ground on the South China Sea.
Mr Kerry and Mr Wang at a Beijing press conference yesterday. While the US and China were united against a nuclear- armed North Korea, they found less common ground on the South China Sea.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

The United States and China have agreed to mount an "accelerated effort" on a new United Nations resolution on North Korea, but seemed to find less common ground on the South China Sea dispute.

While US Secretary of State John Kerry failed to get Chinese support for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang following its fourth nuclear test on Jan 6, he stressed their united opposition against a nuclear- armed North Korea.

"We agreed on the importance of a strong UN resolution and to accelerate our work at the UN immediately, in order to reach an understanding on what should be in it and how to achieve our goal," he said at a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The exchange of goods and services between China and North Korea, for instance, is one area in which steps can be taken by the UN Security Council to sanction North Korea, he said. Other areas are shipping, aviation and trade of resources, added Mr Kerry, who wrapped up a two-day visit here yesterday.

Mr Wang insisted that Beijing is already making great efforts to achieve denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, and rejected any "groundless speculation and distortion" of its stance. He stressed that sanctions are not "an end to themselves" and parties should work towards bringing Pyongyang back to the negotiation table.

"Our position will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment," Mr Wang said. His remarks come on the back of US officials' comments that Beijing can do more to influence the reclusive regime that is heavily reliant on China for oil, gasoline and trade.

But in a sign that Beijing could be reluctant to take a more hardline stance, the official Xinhua news agency said it was unrealistic to rely merely on China to press North Korea to abandon its nuclear drive while the US continues "an antagonistic approach wrought from a Cold War mentality".

Simmering tensions in the South China Sea also topped the agenda, with Mr Wang defending accusations that Beijing has militarised the resource-rich waters.

"China has given a commitment of not engaging in so-called militarisation... We cannot accept the allegation that China's words are not being matched by action," he said.

China claims almost all of the disputed waters, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Mr Kerry also met Chinese President Xi Jinping later in the day.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'US, China call for new resolution on N. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe