A global pressure campaign on North Korea propelled by sharp new UN sanctions has received a welcome boost from China, the North's economic lifeline, as Beijing called on its neighbour to halt its missile and nuclear tests.
The Trump administration cautiously embraced China's apparent newfound cooperation, while putting it on notice that the US would be watching closely to ensure it didn't ease up on North Korea if and when the world's attention is diverted elsewhere.
But there were no signs the US would acquiesce to China's call for a quick return to negotiations.
The diplomatic wrangling sought to build on the sweeping new North Korea sanctions passed by the UN Security Council a day earlier, the strongest in a generation, the US said.
As diplomats gathered in the Philippines for an annual regional meeting, President Donald Trump was cheering the move. He cited the "very big financial impact" of the sanctions and noted optimistically that both China and Russia had joined in the unanimous vote.
Yesterday, following a late-night conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump tweeted: "Just completed call with President Moon of South Korea. Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions."
In characteristically understated fashion, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said of the UN action, "It was a good outcome."
For the US, it was a long-awaited sign of progress for Trump's strategy of trying to enlist Beijing's help to squeeze North Korea diplomatically and economically. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meeting with North Korea's top diplomat during the gathering in Manila, urged the North to "maintain calm" despite the UN vote.
"Do not violate the UN's decision or provoke international society's goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests," Wang said, in an unusually direct admonition.
Tillerson did not meet with North Korea's envoy, Ri Yong Ho. In fact, on his first day in Manila, Tillerson appeared to go out of his way to avoid crossing paths with Ri.
In remarks to reporters Monday morning, Tillerson said the best signal North Korea could give that it was prepared for negotiations with the US would be to halt its missile launches.
Tillerson, in his most specific outline to date of what preconditions the US had for talks with Pyongyang, said stopping the launches would be the "first and strongest signal." But he also said it was not as simple as North Korea stopping launches for a few days or weeks. He wouldn't give a concrete timeframe but said that the US would "know it when we see it."
The US has "other means of communication" open to North Korea if the country wants to express to the US a desire to talk, Tillerson said, but didn't offer specifics.
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