China and the US have signaled that an agreement on a UN resolution against North Korea could be in sight. The planned accord comes in response to Pyongyang's nuclear test in January.
Following talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the terms of the North Korea resolution were still being "evaluated" but that they hoped to agree on a draft in the coming days before submitting the agreement to the UN Security Council.
"Important progress has been made in the consultations and we are looking at the possibility of reaching agreement on a draft resolution and passing it in the near future," Wang said at a news conference.
Kerry confirmed Wang's comments, telling reporters that "significant progress" had been made between the two countries."
"There is no question that if the resolution is approved, it will go beyond anything that we have previously passed," Kerry said.
China and the US have so far found it difficult to reach an agreement on how to respond to North Korea's nuclear test on January 6.
As North Korea's most important ally and largest trading partner, China has previously been reluctant to impose too much pressure on Pyongyang, over fears of destabilizing the country and unleashing an influx of refugees across their border.
As part of the US government's latest attempt to curb the reclusive East Asian nation's controversial nuclear weapons program, US President Barack Obama already enforced new unilateral sanctions on North Korea last week.
Pyongyang has done nothing to compromise its tone since January's test caused international outrage. As Kerry and Wang met on Tuesday, North Korea promised a "strategic" response if it felt threatened by an upcoming joint US-South Korean military exercise.
Peace agreement rejected
Speaking at Tuesday's news conference, Kerry also reiterated Washington's peace agreement to conclude the 1950-1953 Korean War, if the North were willing to "come to the table and negotiate the denuclearization." The three-year conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed on Sunday that North Korea had sent the US a proposal for a peace treaty for the Korean Peninsula, but said the US had rejected the offer when Pyongyang refused to give up its nuclear arsenal.
ksb/cmk (Reuters, AFP, AP)