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(2nd LD) China firm against sanctions-only approach toward N. Korea

All News 01:04 January 28, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more quotes, Kerry's meeting with Chinese State Councilor; ADDS to dateline)

BEIJING/WASHINGTON, 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 in Beijing, 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 China agrees that the Security Council needs to take further action and pass a new resolution, but 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. "Rather, the goal is to take the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula back to the right track of negotiation."

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 airspace.

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.

Kerry said it's not enough for the U.S. and China to agree on the goal of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, and the two sides should agree on the "meaningful steps" necessary to achieve the goal. He also said the U.S. looks forward to working with China at the U.N. to put together "significant new measures" to curtail the North's nuclear and missile programs.

"The United States believes very strongly that China has a particular ability because of its special role and its connections to North Korea, an ability to be able to help us significantly to resolve this challenge," Kerry said.

Asked what specific measures the U.S. wants, Kerry called for restrictions on the flow of "certain goods and services" between the North and China.

"There are movements of ships, ports, so forth; aviation is an area and a sector of concern; various resource exchanges, whether it's coal or fuel -- all of these are areas where there are border customs, different things," he said. "There are many different ways we think in which non-punitive to the people of North Korea but nevertheless effective steps can be taken."

Kerry later held a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and called for Chinese cooperation in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.

"We face a very serious security situation with respect to North Korea. I'm not going to go into it now in depth, but we look forward to working with you in the same way to resolve that challenge and others," Kerry told Yang, according to a State Department transcript.

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," said Kim Han-kwon, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

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