China and South Korea agreed on Monday to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests, Seoul said Monday after the US signalled it may act to shut down Pyongyang's weapons program.
However, South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Kim Hong-kyun said there was no mention of any military option in his talks with China's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, Wu Dawei. The two also did not discuss any possible strike against the North by the Trump administration, Kim said.
"We agreed that there should be strong additional measures based on UN Security Council resolutions if the North pushes ahead with a nuclear test or an ICBM launch despite warnings from the international community," Kim told reporters.
The North may stage a "strategic provocation" to mark key political dates this month, Kim said. The Chinese envoy's visit would serve as a "strong warning" against Pyongyang, he added.
The visit will also address deploying the controversial US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to South Korea, the anti-missile system that is aimed at countering North Korea's missile threat.
China has opposed the deployment, arguing that it would destabilise the regional security balance and that its radar's reach would be intruding into Chinese territory.
South Koreans have also been unhappy with the move, following growing disillusionment with the government after a recent corruption scandal that resulted in the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye.
Joseph Kim has more.
A show of force
The Chinese visit comes as South Korean and US forces begin annual joint military drills called "Operation Pacific Reach" that run until late April.
The operation, the largest of its kind the two countries have conducted, involves training 2,500 American and 12,000 South Korean troops to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. North Korea, however, calls the drills preparations for war.
The US Navy strike group Carl Vinson canceled a planned trip to Australia and was moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, a US official said on the weekend. "We feel the increased presence is necessary," the official said.