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(LEAD) China firm against sanctions-only approach toward N. Korea

All News 19:45 January 27, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details)

BEIJING, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- The United States and China failed Wednesday to narrow differences over the level of punishment against North Korea for its recent nuclear test.

After talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry here, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi showed disapproval of the U.S.-led drive to focus on imposing the toughest-yet sanctions on North Korea.

He said sanctions shouldn't be the objective in itself.

"The new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation, let alone destabilize the Korean peninsula," the minister said.

He reiterated Beijing's three stated principles -- realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and resolving it peacefully through dialogue.

The U.S. is reportedly demanding that China reduce its oil supply to North Korea and halt the imports of its minerals as well as prevent its passenger jets from passing through China's aerospace.

China is widely believed to have more influence over North Korea than any other country. More than 90 percent of North Korea's trade comes from China.

Wang reaffirmed Beijing's commitment to cooperation on a campaign to produce a strong resolution at the U.N. Security Council. He said China is already playing a "responsible" role in that regard.

Kerry pressed Beijing to do more to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang, saying its nuclear arsenal poses a major security challenge to the world.

"All nations, particularly those who seek a global leadership role, or have a global leadership role, have a responsibility to deal with this threat," he said, apparently referring to China.

The secretary emphasized the significance of sanctions in bringing North Korea to the bargaining table, citing the Iran case.

"More significant and impactful sanctions were put in place against Iran, which did not have a nuclear weapon, than against North Korea, which does," he said.

Experts said the U.S. and China are playing a game familiar to the international community in the wake of North Korea's nuclear or long-range missile tests, because the so-called G-2 have their own strategic interests.

"For China, its relationship with North Korea is of importance in itself, but it cares more about broader Northeast Asian security conditions, especially a strategic competition with the U.S. in the region," Kim Han-kwon, researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said.

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