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China, South Korea vow strong measures to prevent North's nuclear test

Talks between Kim and Wu came shortly after Trump pressed China to do more to curb North's nuclear ambitions. (In photo: Wu Dawei (R), China's Representative for Korean Affairs and Kim Hong-Kyun, South Korea's representative to six-party talks) Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Seoul, South Korea Apr 10, 2017, 12.25 PM (IST)

China has agreed to "strong" new measures to punish North Korea if it carries out a nuclear test, Seoul said today after the US signalled it may act to shut down Pyongyang's weapons programme.

South Korea's top nuclear envoy made the comment after talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei, as the US sent a naval strike group to the region in a show of force.

"We agreed that there should be strong additional measures based on UN Security Council resolutions if the North pushes ahead with a nuclear test or an ICBM launch despite warnings from the international community," Kim Hong-Kyun told reporters.

The North may stage a "strategic provocation" to mark key political dates this month, Kim said, adding that Wu's visit would serve as a "strong warning" against Pyongyang. Wu did not speak to the media after the talks.

China is the isolated country's sole major ally and economic lifeline, and Beijing in February suspended all coal imports from the North in punishment for Pyongyang's latest missile test.

Speculation of an imminent nuclear test is brewing as the North marks anniversaries including the 105th birthday of its founding leader on Saturday -- sometimes celebrated with a demonstration of military might.

President Donald Trump, fresh from a missile strike on Syria that was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea, has asked his advisors for a range of options to rein in its ambitions, a top US official said yesterday.

The talks between Kim and Wu came shortly after Trump hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a summit at which he pressed Beijing to do more to curb the North's nuclear ambitions.

"(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the summit.

He added however that Beijing had indicated a willingness to act on the issue.

"We need to allow them time to take actions," Tillerson said, adding that Washington had no intention of attempting to remove the regime of Kim Jong-Un.

The meeting between Xi and Trump came on the heels of yet another missile test by the North, which fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday.

The US Navy strike group Carl Vinson cancelled a planned trip to Australia this weekend, heading toward the Korean peninsula instead, in a move that will raise tensions in the region.

Seoul and Washington are also conducting joint military drills, an annual exercise which is seen by the North as a practice for war.

Pyongyang is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them last year.

Satellite imagery analysis suggests it could be preparing for a sixth, with US intelligence officials warning that Pyongyang could be less than two years away from its goal of striking the continental United States.

(AFP)

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