The United States and China say a new UN resolution against North Korea is needed, following Pyongyang’s claim that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Beijing for talks, called North Korea’s nuclear ambitions a “threat to the world” and urged new sanctions.
However, his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi suggested China would not support any sanctions.
China is North Korea’s main ally, but has condemned Pyongyang’s nuclear test.
On January 6, a 5.1 magnitude tremor was detected in North Korea – which said it had successfully conducted an underground hydrogen bomb test.
However, nuclear experts questioned North Korea’s claim, saying the size of the blast was not large enough to have been from an H-bomb.
Speaking on January 27 after talks with Wang Yi, John Kerry said that both sides agreed on the need for a “strong” resolution against North Korea, and said that limiting the trade of goods and services across China’s border with North Korea was one potential measure.
“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” he added.
China is Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, and major ally – although relations have cooled since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father.
Nonetheless, experts say China is wary of destabilizing North Korea, fearing that millions of North Korean refugees could pour across China’s borders if the regime collapsed.
The two sides also discussed the disputed South China Sea, where China has multiple competing territorial claims with other countries.
China has angered several neighbors by constructing artificial islands on claimed reefs, and building runways and other facilities on them.
John Kerry called on China to stop construction and land reclamation in disputed areas.
However, Beijing said such activity was within its legal rights to protect its territorial sovereignty.
John Kerry, who will also meet China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi and President Xi Jinping, is on an Asia tour that has included Laos and Cambodia.