The United States and China started an inaugural high-level security meeting Wednesday in Washington focusing on ways to step up the pressure in curtailing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
The United States is expected to push China to tighten sanctions on North Korea, U.S. officials said, believing that Beijing has not fully exerted its influence over North Korea to change its provocative behavior.
Specifically, Washington and Beijing will discuss imposing sanctions on China-based entities with links to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons development, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a congressional hearing last week.
In the first round of the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are hosting State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, and Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the People’s Liberation Army.
The nuclear and missile threat posed by North Korea is a top priority in the talks, a new framework launched by U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at their meeting in Florida in April.
Signaling U.S. frustration over China’s perceived reluctance to further tighten economic screws on North Korea, Trump wrote in a tweet Tuesday, “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”
Trump has told Xi that the United States will impose sanctions on Chinese companies with links to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development if Beijing fails to crack down on such entities, according to Tillerson.
As the largest trading partner and a major oil supplier, China provides an economic lifeline for North Korea.
The United States has provided China with a list of entities Washington believes Beijing needs to take action against, Tillerson said last week.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and appears to have made progress in developing a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike as far as the U.S. mainland.
“The most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region is North Korea,” David Helvey, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said at a press briefing Tuesday.
“The United States and China have a shared interest in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, and given China’s unique influence, we seek to deepen our cooperation to realize this outcome, which is in the best interest of peace and security in the region and the world,” Helvey said.
Aside from North Korea, the two sides plan to discuss other strategic issues such as competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, U.S.-China cooperation in defeating Islamic State extremists operating in Iraq and Syria, as well as risk-reduction efforts in the military-to-military relationship, according to U.S. officials.
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