China says it's tightened security at N. Korean border – top US diplomat

China says it's tightened security at N. Korean border – top US diplomat
China told the US that it has tightened security at its border with North Korea, according to a top US diplomat. The official said the US has seen a “shift in emphasis” from China, amid Washington’s calls to put pressure on Pyongyang.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton said that China told the US that it has “stepped up border inspections, beefed up some of the policing function on the border, stepped up customs inspections,” AP reported.

Beijing has also reportedly implemented “a number of other things on companies” that have dealings with North Korea,” Thornton said, while declining to elaborate.

The diplomat said the move reflects Beijing’s increasing awareness of the need to pressure North Korea into halting its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. She also noted that the US has seen a “shift in emphasis” in China’s approach to Pyongyang.

Thornton said Beijing now understands “that they don’t have, I think, as much time to try to bring the North Koreans to the table, get their calculus changed and get them to the negotiating table as they may have previously thought.”

She went on to say that Beijing has also realized that Pyongyang’s actions are “undermining China’s own security in pretty major ways.”

“They do recognize that it’s going to be pretty hard to have a dialogue while the North Koreans are shooting off missiles,” she said.

Thornton went on to state that the US, China, and other parties are currently engaged in talks on a future UN resolution on North Korea in order to decrease the time that would be needed to take action if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear or missile test.

“So, we’re looking at trying to get going on the next set of major measures that would be taken in the wake of another provocation,” she said, noting that this could include economic sanctions targeting the North’s trade in consumer goods, possibly including textiles.

The US has been urging China to put pressure on North Korea, as Beijing is Pyongyang’s sole economic lifeline. President Donald Trump has had phone conversations on the subject with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the US must test China on North Korea by “leaning in hard” on Xi.

Beijing has signed on to the UN sanctions on Pyongyang and suspended coal imports from North Korea through the rest of the year.

When asked about Thornton’s remarks on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Beijing remains committed to “strictly implementing” UN sanctions, but declined to elaborate on any other measures it might be taking, or be willing to take.

He also reiterated Beijing’s call for a renewal of the six-nation denuclearization talks that have been frozen since 2009. Lu said all involved parties should “be flexible, meet each other halfway, and return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.”

China has repeatedly called for all sides to remain calm and level-headed during the North Korean stand-off and urged the parties to “stop irritating each other” earlier this month. 

Meanwhile, North Korea has ignored all calls to ends its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, saying they are necessary as defense against US aggression. The country has conducted dozens of missile launches and tested two nuclear bombs since the beginning of last year. Its latest missile test took place last Sunday.