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Korean peninsula

China, US discuss tougher UN response to North Korea missile programme

Talks come as Beijing adjusts policy towards Pyongyang, Chinese analysts say, but it’s not clear how open Beijing might be to new sanctions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 10:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 May, 2017, 11:10pm

The United States is negotiating with China on a possible stronger United Nations Security Council response, such as sanctions, to North Korea’s escalating threats of nuclear development, diplomats said on Wednesday.

The possibility of a tougher line on North Korea comes as US President Donald Trump steps up military and political pressure against the reclusive regime.

Chinese analysts said Beijing, which has long been a guarantor of Pyongyang’s security and economy, was also recalibrating its policy towards its wayward ally.

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North Korea is on a mission to develop a long-range missile ­capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them last year.

The most recent test, which failed, was on Friday and followed a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea chaired by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

During the meeting, Tillerson called on states to sever diplomatic and financial ties with Pyongyang and suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers.

Zhang Liangui, professor of international strategic research at the Communist Party’s Central Party School, said Chinese President Xi ­Jinping and Trump agreed last month that the situation required immediate attention, and China was more likely than ever to endorse a new United Nations resolution on North Korea.

“From the signals sent out by [Beijing] officials and the increase in domestic discussion about the possibility of sanctions, it is likely that China has adopted a new attitude towards North Korea and may adjust its policy,” Zhang said.

Traditionally, the US and China have got together to negotiate new sanctions before involving other Security Council members.

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UN diplomats said the ongoing talks were still just between Washington and Beijing.

At a minimum, the US could push China to agree to condemn North Korea’s missile launches in a resolution, instead of a statement, which may also blacklist more people and entities tied to Pyongyang’s missile programme.

It was not immediately clear how open Beijing might be to new sanctions. The Security Council has boosted sanctions in ­response to North Korea’s five ­nuclear tests and two long-range rocket launches.

Meanwhile, satellite images indicated activity had resumed at North Korea’s nuclear test site at Punggye-ri , Agence France-Presse reported, citing US-based monitoring group 38 North.

Li Dunqiu, from Zhejiang University, said the bottom line for China would be to stop North Korea from conducting a sixth ­nuclear test.

If Pyongyang crossed that line, further curbs on trade and smuggling could be considered, Li said

Additional reporting by Reuters