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Tension as Tillerson brings tough N Korea stance to China

AFP  |  Beijing 

The United States' top diplomat will press a tougher new line on North Korea in talks with a wary today, in a tense atmosphere after President Donald Trump accused of failing to rein in Pyongyang.

On a tour of Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has broken with years of strategic patience over North Korea, saying that approach had "failed" and that US military action against North Korea was possible if its threats escalated.

The sea change in US policy follows two North Korean nuclear tests last year and recent missile launches including a salvo earlier this month that Pyongyang described as practice for an attack on US bases in

Trump upped the pressure on to get tough in a Twitter blast yesterday accusing of failing to use its leverage as North Korea's key diplomatic and trade partner to put a leash on Pyongyang.

"North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. has done little to help!" Trump said.

But is deeply reluctant to get too tough with its volatile neighbour lest it trigger a confrontation or a messy regime collapse on China's front door.

China has hit back at the US, angrily accusing it of fuelling tension by holding military exercises with its ally Seoul and deploying an anti-missile system in

Beijing called this month for all sides to take steps to defuse the situation and avoid a "head-on collision", calling for re-started diplomatic efforts to dismantle the North's banned nuclear and missile programmes.

Years of diplomacy, however, have failed to deter Pyongyang, and Washington has rebuffed the Chinese proposal.

China's state-run Xinhua agency said in an editorial today that "there is nothing new" in the harder stance outlined by Tillerson during meetings with allies in Tokyo and Seoul, saying that approach had "failed" in years past.

It rejected suggestions that Beijing was not doing enough.

"Positive results require effort and good faith from both sides. China has never fallen short of offering its fair share. It's all up to Washington now," it said.

Tillerson, a former Exxon oil executive who until now had adopted a low profile in office, was to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi today afternoon. The two were to hold a press conference at 4:00 pm (local time).

Later, he was to meet China's top foreign-policy official Yang Jiechi.

Plans also are in the works for Tillerson to meet with President Xi Jinping tomorrow as Beijing and Washington negotiate a possible first summit with Trump -- a frequent China critic -- next month in the United States.

Beijing shares US concerns over Pyongyang's nuclearisation but appears to prefer the tense status quo over drastic action.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, March 18 2017. 13:07 IST