Friday 24 November 2017

US diplomat Rex Tillerson presses for Chinese-US co-operation over North Korea

Rex Tillerson arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)
Rex Tillerson arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has pushed for closer Chinese-US co-operation in dealing with North Korea's nuclear programme, in his first face-to-face talks with senior Chinese diplomats.

Mr Tillerson's visit to Beijing followed his remarks in South Korea on Friday in which he warned that pre-emptive military action against North Korea might be necessary if the threat from its weapons programme reaches a level "that we believe requires action".

China, the North's biggest source of diplomatic support and economic assistance, has not responded directly to his remarks, although Beijing has called repeatedly for all sides to reduce tensions.

Mr Tillerson stressed the need for a "results-oriented" relationship with China after his meeting with foreign minister Wang Yi.

"We renewed our determination to work together to convince North Korea to choose a better path and a different future for its people," Mr Tillerson said.

He said Mr Wang agreed on the need for a "course correction" with Pyongyang. Getting North Korea "to a different place" is a matter to be approached with "a sense of urgency," he added.

Mr Wang restated Beijing's calls for dialogue between the US and North Korea and called Mr Tillerson's visit an important step towards a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump, expected next month.

Mr Tillerson later met Yang Jiechi, Mr Xi's leading foreign policy adviser, and he is scheduled to meet Mr Xi on Sunday morning before returning to the US.

As North Korea's most important source of diplomatic support and economic assistance, China has grown increasingly concerned about the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsula.

Mr Wang warned last week that North Korea on one side, and the US and South Korea on the other, were like "two accelerating trains" heading towards each other, with neither side willing to give way.

He floated a proposal that North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korean military drills.

That was swiftly dismissed by the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who said Washington has to see "some sort of positive action" from North Korea before it can take leader Kim Jong Un seriously.

AP

Press Association

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