US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser has raised concerns with China’s top diplomat over Beijing’s veto of a United States-led push at the United Nations to impose more sanctions on North Korea, a senior US official said.
During the four-and-a-half-hour meeting between Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi in Luxembourg on Monday, the Biden administration conveyed the belief that Beijing and Washington could cooperate on the North Korea issue, the official told reporters during a briefing.
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“Jake raised concerns, in particular, about the veto, which comes following a significant series of ballistic missile launches in violation of previous UN Security Council resolutions and the preparations … for potential nuclear tests,” the official said.
“Each side laid out their positions and the way we see the situation, and certainly Jake made very clear that we believe this is an area where the United States and China should be able to work together.”
Last week, China and Russia accused the US of stoking tensions on the Korean Peninsula in a landmark UN session in which the two nations had to explain their vetoes of new sanctions over North Korea’s renewed ballistic missile launches.
North Korea has carried out more than a dozen ballistic missile launches this year, including intercontinental missiles commonly known as ICBMs, after breaking a moratorium on tests that it self-imposed in 2018 after leader Kim Jong Un first met then-US President Donald Trump.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned on June 7 there would be a “forceful” response from the US, South Korea and the world if North Korea were to conduct a nuclear test.
“Any nuclear test would be in complete violation of UN Security Council resolutions [and] there would be a swift and forceful response to such a test,” Sherman said.
On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he discussed ongoing tensions in talks in Washington, DC, with his South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Park Jin.
“We are coordinating closely with each other on the threat posed by [North Korea’s] unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” the top US diplomat told reporters after the meeting, according to a State Department readout.
“The recent increase in Pyongyang’s ballistic missile testing has raised tension throughout the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. We continue to seek the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” said Blinken, adding that Washington “has absolutely no hostile intent” towards Pyongyang.
“We’re open to dialogue without preconditions … Our goal, simply put, is a peaceful and stable region and world. Until the regime in Pyongyang changes course, we will continue to keep the pressure on.”
North Korea has so far rebuffed those overtures, accusing the US of maintaining hostile policies such as sanctions and military drills.
For his part, Park said any provocations by North Korea, including a nuclear test, would be met with a united and firm response and urged China to use its influence.
“I also think China should play a very positive role to persuade North Korea that maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula requires their new thinking, and also making a right decision at this important, critical juncture,” he said during the news conference in Washington.
The Sullivan-Yang meeting on Monday followed a late May call between the two officials after which Sullivan said it was possible Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping could speak soon, though no such engagement has been announced.
The two presidents held direct talks in mid-March, primarily about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Relations between China and the US have been strained amid several pressing issues, including Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority and tensions over Taiwan, the self-ruled island the Chinese government claims as its own.
China recently promised to “fight to the very end” to stop Taiwanese independence and warned that foreign interference in Taiwan is “doomed to fail”, stoking already soaring tensions with the Biden administration.