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John Kerry to press China over North Korea

By The Citizen

US Secretary of State John Kerry is due in China, where he is expected to urge Beijing to use its influence over North Korea to rein in its belligerence.

Ahead of the visit, Mr Kerry said that a policy of denuclearisation shared by the US and China had to have “teeth”.

Mr Kerry’s four-day tour of Asia comes amid speculation that North Korea is preparing for a missile launch.

The US said there was no evidence North Korea could deploy a nuclear-armed missile, contradicting a leaked report.

North Korea has reportedly moved at least two Musudan ballistic missiles to its east coast.

A flurry of warlike statements from Pyongyang has prompted speculation that it might launch a missile – possibly on 15 April, when the country marks the 101st birthday of the nation’s founder and former leader, Kim Il-sung.

Since the UN imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea in February, its leadership has promised to restart a mothballed nuclear reactor, has shut an emergency military hotline to South Korea, and has urged diplomatic staff to leave, saying it cannot guarantee their safety.

The North says it has also been angered by joint US-South Korean military exercises.

Though North Korean rhetoric has been more bellicose than usual, analysts say it fits a long-standing pattern, and may be intended to boost the popularity of Kim Jong Un, who came to power last year.

On Friday, during a visit to the South Korean capital, Seoul, Mr Kerry said the US would protect itself and its allies, and that talks in Beijing would aim to “lay out a path that will defuse this tension”.

“I think it’s clear to everybody in the world that no country in the world has as close a relationship or as significant an impact on [North Korea] than China,” he said.

China, like the US, wanted denuclearisation, he said, adding: “If that’s your policy, you’ve got to put some teeth into it.”

The BBC’s John Sudworth, reporting from Seoul, says Mr Kerry is likely to tell Chinese leaders that unless they do more to rein in North Korea, the US will be obliged to keep on focussing strategically on the region – something that makes China nervous.

Earlier, Mr Kerry warned North Korean against any launch.

“If Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile, whether it’s across the Sea of Japan or some other direction, he will be choosing wilfully to ignore the entire international community,” he said.

“And it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people’s temperatures.”

He said any launch would “further isolate his country and further isolate his people, who frankly are desperate for food, not missile launches.” BBC