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China and US officials meet over North Korea ballistic missile launches Washington deems violations

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 09/12/2022 Cyril Ip
  • White House says special representatives from China and US discussed Pyongyang's 'increasingly destabilising and escalatory behaviour'
  • US understands proximity to both Russia and North Korea is China's unique advantage, says professor

Chinese and US officials held talks on Wednesday to discuss North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches, two weeks after Washington pushed for tougher sanctions at the UN Security Council's 10th meeting about the peninsula this year.

Sung Kim, US special representative for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, met virtually with Liu Xiaoming, China's special representative on Korean peninsula affairs, to discuss Pyongyang's "increasingly destabilising and escalatory behaviour", the White House said on Thursday.

"[Kim] strongly condemned these missile launches, each of which violated multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and stressed the need for all UN member states to fulfil their obligations and fully enforce the sanctions regime," spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

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Pyongyang has fired 63 ballistic missiles this year, including eight intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), the last of which landed about 200km (124 miles) west of the Japanese shore in Hokkaido, according to Japanese officials, who also claimed the missile was capable of travelling as far as 15,000km (9,320 miles) and reaching the US mainland.

"Kim emphasised that maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula is an important shared goal and reaffirmed that the United States is committed to diplomacy and is prepared to meet with the DPRK at any time."

According to Swaran Singh, professor of diplomacy and disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, Washington is "abundantly clear" that it understands the unique advantage of China: its proximity to both Russia and North Korea.

"The bare minimum consensus between the US and China on the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles remains managing its regional implications. Beyond this, their perspectives fundamentally push them in different directions," Singh said.

He said it was not likely such exchanges would have any impact on Beijing-Pyongyang relations.

Nearly a dozen resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile activity have been passed since 2006. At the Security Council meeting in November, US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Pyongyang was "emboldened" by China and Russia, which "abuse" their veto with "blatant obstructionism".

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Chinese ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said Beijing was "concerned" by the "upward spiral of rising tension and intensifying confrontation" on the Korean peninsula, but urged the council to leave room for diplomatic efforts, and the US to put forward realistic proposals to respond to North Korea's "legitimate concerns".

According to Xu Qinduo, political analyst at the Pangoal Institution, a China-based think tank, Washington will always call for Beijing to side with them against Pyongyang, especially as it takes an increasingly hardline approach.

"Pressure or sanctions alone have failed, and will fail to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. For the US, it would require the Chinese to join them in pressuring Pyongyang," Xu said, adding that the meeting may be a sign that Beijing and Washington are working to find common ground on the issue.

"Beijing can, and probably should, initiate a proactive diplomatic approach or even play a leading role in resolving those challenges," Xu said.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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