The US and China will work together to get nuclear-armed North Korea to take “a different course,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said yesterday, softening previous criticism of Beijing after talks with his Chinese counterpart.
China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea’s surging nuclear and ballistic missile programs, one of a series of hurdles in ties between the world’s two largest economies.
However, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) described the talks with Tillerson as “candid, pragmatic and productive.”
The two sides appeared to have made some progress or put aside differences on difficult issues, at least in advance of a planned summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and US President Donald Trump.
On Friday, Tillerson issued the Trump administration’s starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying in Seoul that a military response would be “on the table” if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and US forces.
Tillerson took a softer line after the meeting with Wang.
He told reporters China and the US noted efforts over the past two decades had not succeeded in curbing the threat posed by North Korea’s weapons programs.
“We share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level, and we’ve committed ourselves to doing everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out,” Tillerson said.
He said Wang and he agreed to work together to persuade North Korea “make a course correction and move away from the development of their nuclear weapons.”
Wang said UN resolutions on North Korea mapped out sanctions and called for efforts to resume efforts for a negotiated settlement.
“No matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement,” he said.
Wang said he and Tillerson “both hope to find ways to restart the talks.”
“Neither of us are ready to give up the hope for peace,” he added.
Tillerson had said on Friday that any talks on North Korea could only take place after it began the process of unwinding its weapons programs.
Wang said yesterday’s talks included discussions on Taiwan and THAAD, but did not give details.
The Trump administration is crafting a big new arms package for Taiwan that could include advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to defend against China, US officials said, a deal sure to anger Beijing.