U.S., China soften tone, say to work
together on North Korea
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[March 18, 2017]
By Yeganeh Torbati and Ben Blanchard
BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States and
China will work together to get nuclear-armed North Korea take "a
different course", U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on
Saturday, softening previous criticism of Beijing after talks with his
China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein
in North Korea's surging nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, one
of a series of hurdles in ties between the world's two largest
But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi 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 and U.S. 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
Tillerson took a softer line after the meeting with Wang. He told
reporters both China and the United States noted efforts over the last
two decades had not succeeded in curbing the threat posed by North
Korea's weapons programmes.
"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
Wang said U.N. resolutions on North Korea both 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
"Neither of us are ready to give up the hope for peace," he said.
Tillerson had said on Friday that any talks on North Korea could only
take place after it began the process of unwinding its weapons
A U.S. official had told Reuters in Washington earlier this week that
Tillerson may raise the prospect of imposing "secondary sanctions" on
Chinese banks and other firms doing business with North Korea in
defiance of U.N. sanctions.
Trump said in a tweet on Friday that North Korea was "behaving very
badly" and accused China, Pyongyang's neighbour and only major ally, of
doing little to resolve the crisis.
However, the two sides appear to have toned down differences as they
work on finalising a trip by Xi to the United States, possibly next
month, for his first summit with Trump.
Wang said the two countries were in "close communication" on arranging
the meeting, but gave no details.
[to top of second column]
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) gestures while shaking hands
with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before a bilateral
meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China,
Saturday, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbein
The state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said on Saturday that
it was in China's interests to stop North Korea's nuclear ambitions
but to suggest China cut the country off completely was ridiculous
as it would be fraught with danger.
"Once there is chaos in North Korea, it would first bring disaster
to China. I'm sorry, but the United States and South Korea don't
have the right to demand this of China," it said in an editorial.
A former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience,
Tillerson will meet Xi on Sunday.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile
launches since the beginning of last year.
Last week, it launched four more ballistic missiles and is working
to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.
Washington has been pressing Beijing to do more to stop North
Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.
China has called for a dual track approach, urging North Korea to
suspend its tests and the United States and South Korea to suspend
military drills, so both sides can return to talks.
China has also been infuriated by the deployment of the THAAD, or
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, missile defence system in South
Korea, which it says will both harm China's own security and do
nothing to ease tensions.
China says the system's powerful radar will extend into the
country's northeast and potentially track Chinese missile launches,
and maybe even intercept them. Russia also opposes THAAD, for the
There are other tricky issues too, including the self-ruled island
of Taiwan which China claims as its own.
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, U.S. officials said, a deal sure
to anger Beijing.
Wang said Saturday's talks included discussions on THAAD and Taiwan
but did not give details.
(Additional reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Raju
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