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March 27, 2017

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China, US vow to cooperate to solve N. Korea nuke crisis

BEIJING -- The U.S. and China pledged on Saturday to work together in addressing the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program, as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned regional tensions had reached a "dangerous level."

The language from Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart after talks in Beijing was notably conciliatory after a run-up in which U.S. President Donald Trump accused China of doing nothing to control its rogue neighbor while Beijing blamed Washington for fuelling hostilities.

"I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions in the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level," Tillerson said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

"We will work together to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a different course, make a course correction, and move away from the development of nuclear weapons."

Tillerson did not explicitly back Beijing's calls for negotiations with North Korea and neither side indicated any concrete next steps.

Tillerson arrived in Beijing earlier Saturday after visits to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea where he said the U.S. would no longer observe the "failed" approach of patient diplomacy, warning that American military action against the North was an option "on the table."

In a Friday Twitter blast, Trump accused Beijing of failing to use its leverage as North Korea's key diplomatic and trade partner.

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

Beijing is reluctant to squeeze the unpredictable North too hard lest it trigger a confrontation or messy regime collapse.

China, however, has accused Washington of escalating tensions by holding military exercises with its ally Seoul and deploying an anti-missile system in South Korea.

Beijing wants to resume multi-lateral diplomatic negotiations with North Korea on dismantling its nukes — which U.N. resolutions bar it from having. Various rounds of such talks in years past failed to deter Pyongyang.

"We can either let the situation aggravate and lead to conflict or go back to the right track of negotiations," Wang said.

"We both hope to find ways to restart talks and do not give up hope for peace."

Tillerson said in Seoul on Friday that the U.S. and its allies were "exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, economic measures," giving no details.

China has criticized the get-tough approach, saying diplomacy was the "only feasible option" and challenging the Trump administration to propose a clear alternative.

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