Updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu, Apr 18, 2019

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Beijing to US: 'Sanctions Against DPKR are not an end in Themselves"

Reckless and Dangerous

(Photo : Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (above) watches a drill by the Korean People's Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Citing an unnamed Japanese official, Japan's Kyodo news agency has reported that North Korea may be preparing to launch a long-range missile even as the UNSC prepares fresh sanctions against the already impoverished country.

Beijing has again resisted calls to impose tougher sanctions against North Korea even as US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Wednesday that the United States is prepared to take all necessary actions to end Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

"Sanctions are not an end in themselves," Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said at a joint press conference with Kerry, echoing a theme that Beijing's diplomatic officials have been repeating throughout the week.  "Our goal should be to bring the nuclear issue on the Korea Peninsula back to the negotiating track."

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Wang and Kerry emerged after a five-hour meeting to speak to reporters at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The US state secretary is believed to have pressed the Chinese government to foist heavier economic penalties on Pyongyang for its latest nuclear test during the talks.   

Contrasting Tones

Both men appeared tense as they smiled and shook hands before the press cameras.  Wang drummed his fingertips on the side of his podium when a visibly vexed Kerry took his turn to address the press.

"Kim Jong Un's actions are reckless, and they are dangerous," said Kerry in an unusually grim tone.  "Whether or not he achieved the explosion of a hydrogen weapon is not what makes the difference.  It's that he is trying."

Kerry and Yi said they agreed to hasten the completion of the UN Security Council's draft resolution concerning North Korea's latest test blast, but admitted that they have yet to decide the actual content of the document.

"The United States will take all necessary steps to defend the American people and to honor our security commitments to allies in the region," Kerry told the press. "I say that, making clear we do not want to raise military tensions, we are not seeking additional steps other than UN Security Council resolutions, but we will not walk away from any actions necessary to achieve the goal."

Wang's words were, in contrast, more measured and subdued.

"Our position will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment," the Chinese diplomat said.

Another Test?

China has strongly condemned North Korea's nuclear weapons program, but analysts have suggested that Beijing is reluctant to enforce tougher sanctions against Pyongyang out of a concern that instability in the impoverished country may spill into Chinese territory.

Noting the tone and language Kerry used during the press conference, Yanmei Xie, senior China analyst at the International Crisis Group in Beijing, said the US may have realized the need to use a more assertive approach when dealing with Beijing. 

"Now they appear to be trying a different approach, raising the stakes for China for what the US sees as inaction over North Korea," she told the Washington Post. "I think the US is not pretending anymore."

Even as the two diplomats spoke, rumors were already swirling that North Korea was preparing to test yet another weapon. 

Citing an unnamed Japanese official, Japan's Kyodo news agency has reported that North Korea may be preparing to launch a long-range missile.

The official reportedly made the assumption based on an analysis of satellite imagery of the North's Tongchang-ri test site along the country's west coast, according to Reuters.

The official claims that the rocket may be ready for test launching within the week.

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