Korea, terrorism expected to feature at US-China dialogue

In this June 20, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis expressed anger at the death of recently released North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier at a Wednesday appearance with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Wednesday's meetings are the latest iteration of bilateral talks between Washington and Beijing that began under the Bush administration.

The talks are meant to build on progress made when President Donald Trump met China's president in Florida in April.

On June 20, a US official said USA spy satellites had detected movements at north Korea's nuclear test site near a tunnel entrance.

Despite worldwide condemnation and sanctions, North Korea has built a small nuclear arsenal and is developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that could threaten Japan, South Korea and - one-day - even some U.S. cities. During the Obama administration, economic, diplomatic and security issues were handled on a single track. It rarely produced significant results. China will be represented by senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and the chief of staff of the military, Fang Fenghui.

The officials also will discuss counterterrorism as well as tensions in the South China Sea.

"The military dimension today is in support of the diplomatic and economic effort led by the State Department and at the same time we have an effective posture in the region to deter KJU (Kim) and also to respond in the event that deterrence fails". Divisive trade issues will be tackled separately at a later date.

President Donald Trump has been counting on China to use its economic leverage with North Korea's totalitarian government. Trump appeared to acknowledge as much in a tweet Wednesday, a day after Warmbier's death.

North Korea last tested a nuclear bomb in September. "At least I know China tried!"

No cause of death has been determined for student Otto Warmbier (WARM'-beer). The University of Virginia student was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group and was convicted of subversion. It has repeatedly conducted missiles tests since then and has vowed to develop a nuclear missile capable of striking the USA mainland.

Like past presidents, Trump is finding the USA has limited scope for punishing North Korea, particularly over the arrest of US citizens. He said the two sides agreed on the need for companies not to deal with North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions, but did not specify any particular action China was promising to take. Such talks are a seemingly distant goal since Kim is believed to see his weapons of mass destruction as a guarantee against invasion.

But while China has tightened controls on trade in North Korean coal, many experts say it is not ready to truly enforce any sanctions that might threaten the stability of its unpredictable neighbour.

Last week, what initially seemed a gesture of goodwill by Pyongyang - the release of a detained United States tourist - turned sour when it was revealed that 22-year-old Otto Warmbier had been brain damaged and in a coma for some time.

Washington has one threat it can use with Beijing: The possibility of "secondary" sanctions that go after Chinese companies doing business in North Korea.

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