North Korea will be one of Washington’s top priorities in an upcoming security dialogue with China, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a special briefing on Monday.
Representatives from Beijing and Washington will meet on Wednesday in Washington to discuss regional issues at the U.S.- China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.
The two sides will look to expand on discussions between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping held in April in Florida.
“We are going to give the DPRK/North Korea issue top priority in our discussions, aiming to advance concrete cooperation with China towards a peaceful resolution of the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea,” Nauert said at the press briefing.
“We continue to urge China to exert its unique leverage as North Korea’s largest trading partner, including by fully implementing all UN Security Council sanctions.”
The State Department will look to push China to further increase pressure on the DPRK, Nauert added, though stopped short of giving specifics on possible avenues for further sanctions.
Both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense have said the U.S. is looking for a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s weapons programmes in recent months, saying Washington hopes to bring the DPRK to the negotiating table via additional sanctions and strict implementation of existing regimes.
“The Secretary (of State) has talked about sort of ramping up pressure on North Korea, and that is clearly what we’re going to be pursuing with the Chinese this week as not only our strategy but the strategy of the international community to try to change the calculus on the part of the North Korean regime,” Nauert added.
The State Department spokesperson added that Washington believes Beijing is the leading facilitator of the DPRK’s economic activity and could do more to implement sanctions on North Korea.
But the State Department’s assessment clashes with Beijing’s stance on sanctions implementation. During its daily press briefings, the Chinese Foreign Ministry regularly claims to be fully in line with its international obligations regarding North Korea.
“Regarding the issue of sanction, we have stated many times that all the DPRK-related resolutions of the UN Security Council should be implemented in their entirety,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said recently on June 16.
The talks will take place against the backdrop of Otto Warmbier’s death, a U.S. citizen held captive in North Korea who passed away on Monday just days after returning home.
The 22-year old Ohio native was arrested last year and was released last week in a coma, after what has been described as “appalling” treatment by DPRK authorities.
“With the death of Otto Warmbier and the ROK’s slow rolling THAAD, I don’t see the U.S. as being in any mood to do anything other than slap more sanctions on North Korea,” Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership specialist at the CNA Corporation, told NK News.
“Unfortunately, pressure alone will not solve the problem. What is needed is a balanced strategy of pressure and engagement.”
“Bottom line, I am pessimistic that the Sino-U.S. dialogue will achieve meaningful progress. At most, it may produce some appropriately indignant atmospherics aimed at Pyongyang.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham