The US Secretary of State has warned of “dangerous levels” of tension with North Korea during his first visit to Beijing.
“We share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high and that things have reached a rather dangerous level,” he added during a press conference with China’s foreign minister.
“There are a number of steps that we can take… to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a course correction and move away from their development of nuclear weapons.”
His comments came after Donald Trump accused North Korea of “behaving very badly” in a tweet that also took aim at China, a key ally of Pyongyang and one of the only countries to maintain diplomatic relations with its isolated government.
“North Korea is behaving very badly,” the President wrote. “They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, urged the US to remain “cool-headed” and defended his government’s position, saying all international parties should seek diplomatic solutions while implementing UN sanctions against Kim Jong-un’s regime.
“We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” he added.
Last week, Mr Wang warned that North Korea on one side, and the US and South Korea on the other, were like “two accelerating trains” heading towards each other, with neither side willing to give way.
He proposed an agreement where North Korea would suspend its weapons development in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korean military drills, but it was swiftly dismissed by Mr Trump’s ambassador to the UN.
Mr Tillerson, who previously criticised China over its expansion in the South China Sea, pushed for closer Chinese-US co-operation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear programme in his first face-to-face talks with senior diplomats in Beijing.
He stressed the need for a “results-oriented” relationship with China, adding: “We renewed our determination to work together to convince North Korea to choose a better path and a different future for its people.”
Mr Tillerson later met Yang Jiechi, Xi Jinping’s leading foreign policy adviser, and was scheduled to meet the Chinese President on Sunday morning before returning to the US.
Advances have alarmed South Korea, sparking the deployment of the US’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defence System (Thaad).
China and Russia have accused the US of exacerbating tensions with the anti-missile system, which they say goes far beyond the capability needed for defence.
Inside the daily life in North Korea
Inside the daily life in North Korea
People reading a newspaper at the metro station
Thoughts of the leaders on the tram. They have about a dozen of these on every tram, all with different thoughts
Young people training for a big upcoming festival
People at the Pyongyang's annual marathon
Many stars on one of the trolleys in Pyongyang
An intimidating poster in a primary school in North Korea.
Solar panels installed on a street lamp.
A poster on the window next to one of the venues we visited in Pyongyang
Kids playing football next to the Arch of Triumph. After a while tourists were allowed to join, so some of us did
Class in an educational center in Pyongyang (where people over 17 years old can attend any classes they choose after school, for free)
People waving at me during the Pyongyang marathon
People having a great time dancing at a public park
A metro driver in a metro station in Pyongyang
Fireworks to mark the birthday of the Eternal President Kim Il Sung on our last night in Pyongyang
My wonderful tour guide at a public park
One of the parks in Pyongyang
A person rowing some boats for the day at a river in Pyongyang
The National War Museum
Public park in Pyongyang
The Korean Central News Agency, the state media outlet for North Korea, also hit out at military drills and said the manoeuvres “only precipitate the US’ final ruin”.
“The US would be well advised to bear in mind that the army of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has shifted the mode of its military counteraction to that of pre-emptive strike to cope with the former’s moves for a nuclear war,” said an article published on Saturday.
“Once even a single shell is fired into the inviolable territory, waters and sky where the sovereignty of the DPRK is exercised, its Juche-oriented weapons will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to such debris that no living thing can be found. This is not hot air.
“No mercy will be shown for those who infringe upon the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK even a bit.”
Mr Tillerson travelled to Beijing from South Korea, where he warned on Friday that pre-emptive military action against North Korea might be necessary if the threat from its weapons programme reaches a level “that we believe requires action”.
As North Korea’s most important source of diplomatic support and economic assistance, China has grown increasingly concerned about the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Mr Tillerson’s visit came ahead of a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Trump, which is expected to take place later next month.Reuse content