U.S. and China Talk, North Korea Tests

Tillerson and Wang
The first meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on February 17.

By The Maritime Executive 2017-03-18 20:12:04

Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State, spoke about North Korea with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in China on Saturday, saying that the two discussed the importance of safeguarding stability and security in Northeast Asia with a sense of urgency.

On Friday, Tillerson issued the Trump administration's clearest warning yet to North Korea, reports news agency Reuters, saying in Seoul that a military response would be "on the table" if North Korea took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.

On Sunday, however, North Korea conducted a test of a newly developed high-thrust engine with leader Kim Jong Un saying the successful test was "a new birth" for its rocket industry. The engine is believed to be able to help the country achieve world-class satellite launch capability, says Reuters, indicating the test was likely of a new type of rocket engine for long-range missiles.

North Korea has already conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches and is believed to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that can reach the United States.

Local media indicated on Sunday that that the Kim said that the nation is close to the test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. "He emphasized that the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries," official media outlet KCNA said.

At Saturday’s meeting, Tillerson and Wang renewed their determination to work together to convince the North Korean Government to choose “a better path and a different future for its people.” 

“Since the historic opening of relations between our two countries more than 40 years ago, the U.S.-China relationship has been guided by an understanding of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” said Tillerson. “It is important that the leaders of our two countries engage in further dialogue to develop a common understanding that will guide our relationship for the next half-century.

“The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies, and we must both promote stability and growth. Our two countries should have a positive trading relationship that is fair and pays dividends both ways, and we will be working on that going forth.”

Prior to Tillerson speaking to the press about the meeting, President Donald Trump tweeted that China had done very little about North Korea.

Asked if the tweet made Tillerson’s position difficult, he avoided a direct reference to the tweet, saying: “Foreign Minister Wang has agreed that we will work together to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a different course – make a course correction and move away from their development of their nuclear weapons. 

“But it is with a certain sense of urgency that we both feel because of the current situation that we have on the peninsula. So, I appreciated Foreign Minister Wang’s sincere expressions about how China sees the situation, and we had a very good exchange on that, and we will continue to be talking with one another on what we can both do, along with working with others.”

China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by the United States to rein in North Korea's surging nuclear and ballistic missile programs, but Wang described the talks with Tillerson as "candid, pragmatic and productive," and the meeting is seen as progress ahead of a planned summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

For his part, Wang said on Saturday that the Korean peninsula nuclear issue is of interest to everyone. “China stays committed to the goal of denuclearization,” he said. “We are for the settlement of this issue through dialogue and negotiations and the maintenance of peace and stability on the peninsula and the overall region.”

Wang said that China, as a close neighbor of the peninsula and a responsible major country, has devoted a lot of energy and efforts to seek a settlement to the issue. The tremendous, important efforts China has made are visible to all, he said. 

“The entire course of trying to seek a solution to the Korean peninsula nuclear issue up to date has both had successes and failures,” said Wang. “The most important principle we have identified is that no matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement… Both of us are firmly committed to the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula.”