US, China discuss measures to counter North Korea threat

A strategy is urgently needed to stop or slow the program before North Korea develops intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit the western United States and masters the technology to marry the missiles to nuclear warheads. But what, specifically, will he do to prevent it?

But China's "emotions" toward North Korea don't drive its policy. While it opposes the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons, Beijing fears any policies that might lead to an influx of North Koreans into China or a USA -allied, unified Korea emerging on the Chinese border. Kim Jong Un has purged hundreds of officials since taking power in 2011 and is believed responsible for more than 300 deaths including that of his half-brother and his uncle. China allows exporters crossing the border from North Korea into China to "self verify" compliance with sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has previously criticised China for not doing enough to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme. We ignore China's enduring strategic interests in North Korea at our peril. Any diplomatic effort to denuclearize North Korea must also alleviate China's geostrategic concerns about the future of the Korean Peninsula.

Time and again through history, China's attempts to penetrate Korea's formidable terrain to establish direct control there came at a high cost or failed thanks to the strong Korean identity and its military proclivities. In response, China, under the Ming Dynasty, fought alongside Korea against the Japanese army.

China's current leaders share their forbears' strategic concern about the Korean Peninsula, which explains their unwillingness to meet fully USA demands for action against North Korea. China simply does not want to run the risk of its North Korean buffer state imploding as a result of sanctions.

China hopes the two countries, following through on the spirit of the phone conversation, could uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation as well as enhance high-level exchanges, Yang said.

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Xiyu is the former director of the Korean Peninsula Office within China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Wang and Yun also discussed North Korea, the ministry said, with Wang saying efforts to seek peace should not be abandoned.

China has also come under significant global pressure to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, while President Xi Jinping is believed to have become increasingly irritated by Kim Jong Un's behavior. That he was essentially under Chinese protection makes his death especially galling for Beijing, which has grown increasingly wary of Pyongyang's erratic behavior and pursuit of nuclear weapons. But this becomes a vicious cycle, because its neighbors interpret its actions as a provocation, and start to feel threatened themselves.

The US market will be closed for trading this evening for Presidents' Day. These tests are ultimately aimed at developing nuclear weapons capable of striking the US.

The Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions since North Korea first tested an atomic device in 2006.

  • Sonia Alvarado