Top U.S. officials to visit China to discuss North Korea

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 15, 2016 at 10:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- State Secretary John Kerry is to travel to Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Cambodia and China – where he's expected to hold talks on responses to North Korea with officials in Beijing.

The State Department made the announcement Friday, the same day Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, told his South Korea counterpart Hwang Joon-kook that Beijing would work with Seoul on a United Nations Security Council resolution that imposes new sanctions.

China, however, wants to take a lighter approach to North Korea sanctions, while the United States and its two key allies Japan and South Korea want to implement more powerful and comprehensive sanctions that could place heavy pressure on North Korea individuals and entities directly involved in nuclear weapons development.

Kerry's visit is to reaffirm U.S. commitment to rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region, State Department spokesman John Kirby told press.

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to visit Beijing on Jan. 20-21 to discuss the North Korea nuclear issue before Kerry's arrival, South Korean news network YTN reported.

It is likely both officials would take the opportunity to persuade China, a permanent member of the Security Council, to consider tougher sanctions against North Korea.

China has denounced North Korea's fourth nuclear test, but takes a different view on Pyongyang. Beijing is also wary of U.S., South Korea actions that could heighten tensions on the peninsula, or destabilize the Kim Jong Un regime.

During his meeting with Seoul's Hwang, Wu took an active approach to closer communication with South Korea, MBC reported.

"Only when a strong wind blows do we see the tougher grass for what it is," Wu reportedly said, while referring to South Korean President Park Geun-hye's speech.

Park had called on China to work more closely as a partner to Seoul in resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis.

China's traditional ties to the regime in Pyongyang is preventing the country from unconditional support of the tougher North Korea sanctions the United States would like enforced in the wake of the North's recent test.

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