US, China clash over North Korea sanctions

Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryMark Mellman: Debating the debate Johnson links Dem opponent to Clinton email scandal Senate poised to override Obama veto MORE clashed with his Chinese counterpart Wednesday over how to respond to North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

In a press conference in Beijing, Kerry insisted sanctions would get North Korea to the negotiating table, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi seemed to dismiss the need for such punishment.

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“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” Yi said. “The key is to really resolve the issue.”

“With all due respect, more significant and impactful sanctions were put in place against Iran, which did not have a nuclear weapon, than against North Korea, which does,” Kerry said later in the conference. “And with Iran, we implemented an agreement in the end with the great cooperation of China, with China’s help, with Russia, Britain, France, Germany — all came together in order to assert a critical principle and enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

China, which is North Korea’s largest ally and trading partner, is seen as key in pressuring Pyongyang to reign in its nuclear program.

Earlier this month, North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. U.S. officials and nuclear experts have cast doubt on that claim, but if true, it would represent a major step forward in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

On Wednesday, Kerry said it doesn’t matter whether North Korea leader Kim Jong-un's claim of a successful hydrogen bomb test was true.

“Whether or not he achieved the explosion of the hydrogen weapon is not what makes the difference,” Kerry said. “It’s that he is trying, that he wants to do that and made the attempt against all of the international sanctions and resolutions that have been passed by the global community to prohibit that behavior.”

China has said it would support a United Nation resolution condemning North Korea, which Yi reiterated Wednesday.

But, he added, the resolution “should not provoke new tension.”

“Rather, the goal is to take the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula back to the right track of negotiation,” Yi said.

In addition to the U.N. resolution, Congress has also been working to impose new sanctions on North Korea in response to the test. The House passed a sanctions bill earlier this month, while the Senate has promised to take up a bill soon.