Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China (left) shakes hands with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan during their meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 26. (Xinhua/Yonhap)
While alarms are ringing over the possibility of military action by North Korea, the US national security advisor met with China’s foreign minister to ask that China exert its influence on North Korea.
The White House reported on Saturday that US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China held “candid, substantive and constructive discussions on global and regional issues, including those related to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the Middle East, DPRK, the South China Sea, and Burma,” during their meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday and Saturday.
A senior US administration official revealed in a background press call that the US is “deeply concerned” over North Korea’s recent missile launches, as well as about the “growing relationship between Russia and the DPRK and what that might mean for [North Korean leader] Kim’s intentions.”
The official went on to add, “We raised those concerns directly with the Chinese given their influence on Pyongyang. And we hope these discussions will continue further between our two envoys.”
Since the September 2023 summit between the leaders of North Korea and Russia, the two have become extremely close, with the US revealing that North Korea has been providing artillery shells and missiles to Russia to help it with its war in Ukraine.
This official stated that China has not been very constructive, despite having leverage with North Korea, while Russia is growing in influence. However, they did state that Beijing “certainly maintains influence as well,” and that the US’ expectation is that China will “have to use that to bring us back to the path of denuclearization.”
The unnamed official also went on to state that the US would reach out through diplomatic channels once China’s Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong, who just visited Pyongyang, returns to Beijing.
On Friday, Sun met with Choe Son-hui, the minister of foreign affairs of North Korea, who visited Moscow on Jan. 16 and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as other officials.
The US has long been complaining that China is not being stricter with North Korea regarding its violations of UN Security Council resolutions, and now, it has announced plans to meet with China’s vice foreign minister after his Pyongyang visit, showing that Washington is strongly urging Beijing to use its sway on North Korea for constructive ends.
Sun may have gained insight into developments and the intended direction the relations between North Korea and Russia will take during discussions on relations between North Korea and China.
The White House explained that the meeting between Sullivan and Wang, who met three times in 2023, was held to maintain lines of communication, including military-to-military communication, as agreed upon at the November 2023 summit between the US and China, and to “responsibly manage competition in the relationship as directed by the leaders.”
Following Taiwan’s election of Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate of the Beijing-wary Democratic Progressive Party, the meeting emphasized the importance of the Taiwan issue, with the White House announcing, “Mr. Sullivan underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
According to a senior White House official, Sullivan reaffirmed the “One China” policy, stating that the US does not support Taiwanese independence, and reiterated his position opposing any unilateral changing of the status quo.
The same official also quoted him as urging Beijing to use its practical influence over Tehran to halt attacks against vessels in the Red Sea by pro-Iran Yemeni Houthi rebels.
The White House reported that over the course of two days and 12 hours of talks, Sullivan and Wang also discussed working this spring to establish a dialogue for reducing threats associated with artificial intelligence, as agreed upon at the two sides’ summit.
Also in accordance with that summit, the US and China plan to establish a working group on Tuesday to address issues related to fentanyl, a narcotic often made with Chinese-produced precursor chemicals.
By Lee Bon-young, Washington correspondent
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