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Kerry urges China to press North Korea on nuclear program

In a meeting between the top American and Chinese diplomats, John Kerry has urged Wang Yi to apply more pressure on North Korea regarding its nuclear program. Kerry's stop in Beijing is his last on a tour of Asia.

Following Wednesday's four-hour meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, both sides spoke of "constructive" and "candid" talks.

Topping the agenda was how the two countries should react to North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear bomb test.

The United States believes North Korea should face sanctions over its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and has urged China to join in on punishing North Korea. China has condemned North Korea's nuclear program but has taken little concrete action as a result.

Kerry and Wang were able to agree that a new UN Security Council resolution against North Korea would be prudent, but differed on whether or not it should include sanctions.

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Kerry: Goal of sanctions is to start negotiations

Kerry called for the Security Council to draft "significant new measures" of punishment for North Korea, while Wang said a "new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation" and added that "sanctions are not an end in themselves."

In an editorial in China's official Xinhua state news agency on Wednesday, commentators said the United States pursuit of "unceasing defaming, sanctions, isolation and provocation of the DPRK, [flare] up the country's sense of insecurity and thus [push] it towards reckless nuclear brinkmanship."

Observers say that China refrains from really pressing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as North Korea is officially known, on the nuclear issue because it fears an eventual collapse of Kim Jong Un's regime. This could have unwanted consequences for China, including a Korean peninsula that is strongly allied with the United States and a flood of refugees from North Korea into China.

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'N. Korea must be held responsibile'

Kerry and Wang also addressed the issue of disputed territory in the South China Sea. The islands in question are claimed in part or wholly by a number of nations, including China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. China has recently made renewed claims on some of the islands and started construction of airstrips. This, said Kerry, needed to stop as it was contributing to instability in the region.

Wang repeated China's long-standing assertion that it is merely protecting its sovereign territory and rejected claims that China was deliberately stirring the pot.

"We cannot accept the allegation that China's words are not being matched by actions," Wang said, referring to the accusation that China was not interested in maintaining stability in the region.

Kerry's trip to Beijing comes at the end of a trip through Asia that saw him make stops in Laos and Cambodia prior to China. He has been meeting with officials in those countries to discuss the upcoming US-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit in Sunnylands, California, which is scheduled for February 15 and 16.

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