By Song Sang-ho
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) — U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan raised concerns with China over North Korea’s recent weapons tests and growing ties with Russia during his talks with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in Bangkok this week, a senior U.S. official said Saturday.
During their talks on Friday and Saturday (local time), Sullivan and Wang discussed a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including those concerning North Korea, Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Middle East, the South China Sea and Myanmar, the official said in a telephonic briefing.
“I know we are deeply concerned about the recent testing of weapons. We are deeply concerned about the growing relationship between Russia and the DPRK and what that might mean for (North Korean leader) Mr. Kim’s intentions,” the official said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We raised those concerns directly with Chinese given their influence on Pyongyang and we hope these discussions will continue further between our two envoys,” the official added.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen due to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s pugnacious rhetoric against South Korea and his regime’s weapons performance tests this month, including that of a solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile tipped with a hypersonic warhead and of an underwater nuclear weapons system.
The official took note of Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong’s visit to Pyongyang this week. The North’s state media reported that Sun met with North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui in a sign of the North’s efforts to maintain close ties with Beijing amid its deepening cooperation with Moscow.
“I think the Chinese just sent their vice foreign minister to Pyongyang,” the official said. “So our next step would be a call between our envoy and the vice foreign minister upon his return.”
The official also expressed hope that China would utilize its influence over the North to help address the North Korean nuclear quandary.
“Certainly, Beijing certainly maintains influence as well. And I think our expectation would be that they use that to bring us back to the path of denuclearization,” the official said.
In a readout, the White House said that Sullivan and Wang held “candid, substantive and constructive” discussions on North Korea and other regional and global issues, which included the Taiwan issue.
“They discussed cross-Strait issues, and Mr. Sullivan underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” it read.
“The two sides committed to maintain this strategic channel of communication and to pursue additional high-level diplomacy and consultations in key areas between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, including through a call between President Biden and President Xi,” it added.
The bilateral talks came as Washington has been striving to maintain its strategic competition with Beijing “responsibly” to “de-risk” the bilateral relationship rather than decoupling it.