US and China agree tougher sanctions on North Korea
America and China have reached agreement on a United Nations resolution that would impose tougher sanctions on North Korea as punishment for its latest nuclear test and rocket launch, UN diplomats have said.
One Security Council source called the draft resolution "significantly substantive" and expressed hope that it will be adopted in the coming days. Another said the draft had been circulated on Wednesday to the three other permanent council members - Russia, Britain and France.
The security council will hold closed consultations on Thursday on compliance with the North Korean sanctions resolutions and the US-China draft could be discussed then with the 10 non-permanent council members.
A flurry of activity has taken place in Washington, including meetings between China's foreign minister Wang Yi and US secretary of state John Kerry on Tuesday, and with national security adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said Ms Rice and Mr Wang agreed "on the importance of a strong and united international response to North Korea's provocations, including through a UN Security Council resolution that goes beyond previous resolutions".
"They agreed that they will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state," he added.
Earlier, Mr Kerry told a congressional hearing: "We're on the brink of achieving a strong United Nations Security Council resolution."
North Korea started 2016 with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test on January 6 and followed it up with the launch of a satellite on a rocket on February 7 that was condemned by much of the world as a test of banned missile technology.
Over the past 10 years the reclusive communist state has conducted four nuclear tests and launched six long-range missiles - all in breach of security council resolutions.
South Korea's UN ambassador Oh Joon has urged the security council to adopt "extraordinary" measures to make clear to the North "that it will no longer tolerate its nuclear weapons development".
The US, its Western allies and Japan, also pressed for new sanctions that go beyond the North's nuclear and missile programmes. But China, Pyongyang's neighbour and supporter on the council, is reluctant to impose measures that could threaten the stability of North Korea and cause the country's economy to collapse.
Mr Wang said on Tuesday that a new UN resolution alone could not resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and dialogue was needed.
He said China was urging a "parallel track" in which there were both talks on denuclearisation - the top priority of the United States - and replacing the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a formal peace treaty, a key demand of Pyongyang.
While the US and China were discussing a new UN resolution, the United States took tougher steps of its own against North Korea, tightening sanctions and announcing it would hold formal talks with South Korea on deploying a missile defence system that China fears could be used against it as well North Korea.
South Korea and Japan have also announced new measures against Pyongyang.