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(2nd LD) U.S., China share 'firm opposition' to N. Korea's possible nuclear test

All Headlines 19:41 April 21, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS quotes in last 3 paras, photo)

BEIJING, April 21 (Yonhap) -- The United States and China "remain united in our firm opposition" to further North Korean provocations, a top U.S. diplomat handling North Korea said Thursday, amid signs that Pyongyang may conduct a fifth nuclear test.

Ambassador Sung Kim, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, made the remarks in Beijing after holding talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei. Kim also called China a "keyword" to reining in North Korea's provocative behaviors.

"I can tell you that the U.S. and China remain united on our firm opposition to North Korea's provocative and irresponsible behaviors," Kim told reporters in Beijing.

Kim said, "we are deeply concerned" over signs of North Korea preparing for another nuclear test, and, "I think that concern is shared by China and other parties of the six-party process that North Korea may conduct another provocative action."

"We call, we urge North Korea to refrain from any such provocation," Kim said.

North Korea has been slapped with tougher international sanctions since early last month over the January nuclear test and launch of a long-range rocket in February.

China, North Korea's economic lifeline and diplomatic backer, supported new U.N. sanctions against North Korea, but few analysts believe that Beijing would put enough pressure on Pyongyang due to fears of a sudden collapse of the North Korean regime.

In the wake of North Korea's January nuclear test and February rocket launch, South Korea and the U.S. began formal talks about the possible deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense shield in South Korea.

Russia and China have long voiced opposition to the possible deployment of the advanced U.S. missile shield or a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) unit in South Korea.

China has expressed strong opposition to the presence of a THAAD system in South Korea, arguing that the system can be used against it.

The U.S. envoy dismissed the Chinese concern, saying the THAAD system is completely defensive in nature.

"The fact is that North Korea presents a very serious missile threat on the Korean Peninsula," Kim said. "This is why we have started formal consultations about the possibility of deploying the THAAD system (in South Korea)."

"This is a completely defensive system. There is no need for China or Russia to be concerned about this system," Kim said.

Kim also said the U.S. is still open to credible and meaningful diplomacy with North Korea, but the North has displayed no intention of engaging in such diplomacy.

"Unfortunately, North Korea has shown no interest in working with us on a credible and meaningful approach to denuclearization," Kim said.

North Korea is gearing up for a key party congress early next month, with some analysts saying that Kim Jong-un may think that a fifth nuclear test is needed to burnish his credentials ahead of the May event.

Kim said he hoped that there will be "a change in North Korea's policy" during the May congress "in terms of undertaking serious economic reform that could allow the country to better take care of its citizens."


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