* Kerry says there's been enough confrontational language
* China does not publicly say it will exert pressure on
* North Korea has said again and again it will never abandon
(Recasts, updates throughout)
By Arshad Mohammed and Ben Blanchard
BEIJING, April 13 The United States said on
Saturday that China had agreed to work together to rid North
Korea of its nuclear capability by peaceful means, but Beijing
made no specific commitment in public to pressure its long-time
ally to change its ways.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met China's top leaders
in a bid to persuade them to push reclusive North Korea, whose
main diplomatic supporter is Beijing, to scale back its
belligerence and, eventually, return to nuclear talks.
Before travelling to Beijing for the first time as secretary
of state, Kerry had made no secret of his desire to see China
take a more active stance towards North Korea, which in recent
weeks has threatened nuclear war against the United States and
Kerry and China's top diplomat, State Councillor Yang
Jiechi, said both countries supported the goal of denuclearizing
the Korean peninsula.
"We are able, the United States and China, to underscore our
joint commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula
in a peaceful manner," Kerry told reporters, sitting next to
Yang at a state guesthouse in western Beijing.
But North Korea has repeatedly said it will not abandon
nuclear weapons which it described on Friday as its "treasured"
guarantor of security.
Yang said China's stance on maintaining peace and stability
on the peninsula was clear and consistent, repeating phrasing
used by the Foreign Ministry since the crisis began.
"We maintain that the issue should be handled and resolved
peacefully through dialogue and consultation. To properly
address the Korea nuclear issue serves the common interests of
all parties. It is also the shared responsibility of all
parties," he said, speaking through an interpreter.
"China will work with other relevant parties, including the
United States, to play a constructive role in promoting the
six-party talks and balanced implementation of the goals set out
in the Sept. 19 joint statement of 2005."
The United States and its allies believe the North violated
the 2005 aid-for-denuclearization deal by conducting a nuclear
test in 2006 and pursuing a uranium enrichment programme that
would give it a second path to a nuclear weapon in addition to
its plutonium-based programme.
Six-party aid-for-disarmament talks, involving the two
Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China, have
been stalled since 2008 when the North walked away from the
Kerry declined to comment on what specifically China may do
to push for a peaceful solution on North Korea, saying only that
they had discussed all possibilities.
At a news conference in Seoul on Friday and in a U.S.-South
Korean joint statement issued on Saturday, Kerry signalled the
U.S. preference for diplomacy, but stressed North Korea must
take "meaningful" steps on denuclearization.
"We don't want to get into a threat for threat or ... some
kind of confrontational language here. There's been enough of
that," Kerry said in Beijing.
If North Korea got rid of its nuclear capabilities, then the
United States would have no reason to maintain its recently
deployed defensive capabilities - like new or expanded missile
defence systems in Alaska and Guam - he said.
"Now, obviously, if the threat disappears, i.e. North Korea
denuclearizes, the same imperative does not exist at that point
in time for us to have to have that kind of robust, forward
leaning posture of defence."
As the North's main trading partner, financial backer and
the closest thing it has to a diplomatic ally, China had a
unique ability to use its leverage against the impoverished,
isolated state, Kerry said in Seoul before leaving for Beijing.
China, which sided with North Korea in the 1950-53 civil war
against the U.S.-backed South, has always been reluctant to
apply pressure on Pyongyang, fearing instability if the North
were to implode and send floods of refugees into China.
It has also looked askance at U.S. military drills in South
China's Xinhua news agency said in a commentary that
Washington had itself been "fanning the flames" on the Korean
peninsula with its shows of force.
"It keeps sending more fighters, bombers and missile-defence
ships to the waters of East Asia and carrying out massive
military drills with Asian allies in a dramatic display of
preemptive power," it said.
Chinese state television quoted Premier Li Keqiang as
telling Kerry that rising tensions on the Korean peninsula were
in nobody's interests, in apparent reference to both Washington
and Pyongyang to dial down the war of words.
"All sides must bear responsibility for maintaining regional
peace and stability and be responsible for the consequences,"
the television report paraphrased Li as saying.
"Disturbances and provocation on the peninsula and
regionally will harm the interests of all sides, which is like
lifting a rock only to drop it on one's feet."
Still, U.S. officials believe China's rhetoric on North
Korea has begun to shift, pointing to a recent speech by China's
Xi in which - without referring explicitly to Pyongyang - he
said no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even
the whole world into chaos for selfish gain".
Kerry's visit to Asia, which includes a stop in Tokyo on
Sunday, takes place after weeks of shrill North Korean threats
of war since the imposition of new U.N. sanctions in response to
its third nuclear test in February.
North Korean television made no mention of Kerry's visit and
devoted most of its reports to preparations for Monday's
celebrations marking the birth date of state founder Kim
But Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers' Party's newspaper,
issued a fresh denunciation of joint U.S.-South Korean military
exercises, saying: "If the enemies dare provoke (North Korea)
while going reckless, it will immediately blow them up with an
annihilating strike with the use of powerful nuclear means."
South Korea's Yonhap news agency, quoting a government
source, said North Korea had not moved any of its mobile missile
launchers for the past two days after media reports that as many
as five missiles had been moved into place on the country's east
It said this suggested no missile launches were imminent.
(Additional reporting by Terril Yue Jones in BEIJING and Ronald
Popeski in SEOUL; Editing by Nick Macfie)