The United States and China must find a way forward on reining in North Korea’s nuclear programme and easing tension in the South China Sea, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Kerry was expected to press China, on a two-day visit to Beijing, to rein in North Korea after it declared that it had successfully carried out a test of a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear device on Jan. 6.
Beijing, Pyongyang’s only major backer, criticised US State Department officials due to their remarks on urging China to do more as irresponsible, saying it made great efforts to achieve denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.
According to a pool report from the meeting, Kerry told Wang that although the US and China made good progress on issues such as climate change and counter-terrorism, "clearly we have several important issues that we need to find the way forward on."
"One is the nuclear programme of the DPRK, North Korea, a major challenge to global security, one of the most important issues for the security of the United States of America," Kerry said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The United Nations Security Council said at the time of North Korea’s test that it would start to work on significant new measures in response. Diplomats said that it could mean an expansion of sanctions.
Diplomats also said that Washington and Beijing have since been negotiating on a draft resolution, but when asked on Saturday if they were nearing an agreement, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said no.
In a sign that Beijing could be unwilling to take a more hardline stance on North Korea, Chinese state media said that it was "unrealistic to rely merely on China to press the DPRK to abandon its nuclear programme, as long as the US continues an antagonistic approach wrought from a Cold War mentality".
"Bear in mind that China-DPRK ties should not be understood as a top-down relationship where the latter follows every bit of advice offered by the former," according to a state news agency.
Kerry also said that the US and China had to make progress on "concerns and activities in the South China Sea."
China claims almost all the disputed waters in the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China established facilities on islands it controls, annoying the Philippines and Vietnam and was criticised by the US, which expressed its deep concern saying that the construction would exacerbate tension in the area.
On Tuesday, Kerry was in Cambodia after a visit to neighbouring Laos in an attempt to urge unity among leaders of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), before a summit with US President Barack Obama next month in Sunnylands, California.
China has insisted that any disputes should be handled bilaterally.