U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he had won a commitment from China to help bring a belligerent North Korea back to nuclear disarmament talks.
Speaking to reporters following those talks, Kerry praised China for joining with the U.S. in calling for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs and said he urged Beijing to “use every tool at its disposal” to convince its communist neighbor to return to the long-stalled disarmament talks.
Kerry said the Chinese officials had told him they were willing to take additional steps to achieve North Korean denuclearization and that both sides had traded ideas for further consideration. He did not elaborate on what those steps were, but a day earlier in South Korea had suggested they could involve reductions in commercial and energy trade between China and North Korea.
While China is North Korea’s only significant ally and main source of economic assistance, the extent of China’s influence, and willingness to use it, is unclear following a purge in the isolated country’s leadership. Diplomats say Beijing received no prior warning ahead of the December arrest and execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who had been considered Pyongyang’s point man on China affairs and was a strong promoter of free trade zones being set up along their mutual border. That came on the heels of Pyongyang’s snubbing of Beijing’s wishes when it conducted a missile test in late 2012, followed by the underground detonation of a nuclear device last spring.
The nuclear talk discussions involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, broke down at the end of 2008 and U.S. officials say they see no point of restarting talks until Pyongyang shows an authentic desire to make good on its prior commitments to dismantle its nuclear programs.