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US and China to cooperate in restraining North Korea

Barack Obama and Li Keqiang have discussed imposing sanctions on North Korea following its latest nuclear test. The US and China are eyeing closer cooperation at the UN Security Council and in law enforcement.

 

According to the White House, US President Barack Obama and China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang agreed to step up cooperation and possibly impose sanctions on North Korea during a United Nations (UN) General Assembly meeting on Monday.

The discussions, on the sidelines of this week's UN General Assembly, followed news this month of North Korea's fifth nuclear warhead test.

"Both leaders condemned North Korea's September 9 nuclear test and resolved to strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," a White House statement said.

The statement also said that the two countries would "invigorate cooperation in the United Nations Security Council and in law enforcement channels."

However, Chinese officials did not confirm whether the country supported potential sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions

North Korea has made significant advances on its weapons program in 2016. In January, Pyongyang claimed to have successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb.

In September, the country carried out a suspected fifth nuclear warhead test and tested an engine designed to launch an earth observation satellite.

China, North Korea's neighbor, most significant diplomatic backer and biggest trading partner, has become increasingly frustrated by Pyongyang's nuclear tests.

North Korea tests its satellite engine

Citizens watch on as North Korea tests its latest satellite engine.

However, Beijing has so far been reluctant to support tougher sanctions.

China has nevertheless agreed to a United Nations proposal on sanctioning North Korea earlier this year and has said it will work with the UN in formulating a response to the nuclear tests.

Chinese conglomerate suspected of supporting North Korea nuclear program

The US and China's agreement to establishing law enforcement channels comes following reports that officials in both countries are targeting the finances of the Chinese industrial conglomerate, Liaoning Hongxiang.

The Obama administration suspects that the firm, which is headed by a Communist Party cadre, has been assisting North Korea's nuclear program. That is according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

The US Department of Justice is reportedly preparing to announce legal action against Liaoning Hongxiang, as well as other Chinese firms, as early as this week. Trade and heavy imports into China worth hundreds of millions of dollars are suspected to be helping finance North Korea's nuclear program.

Chinese authorities are said to be cooperating in the investigation.

dm/msh (Reuters)

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