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Diplomacy

Kerry discusses Korea tensions in China

US Secretary of State John Kerry has met with China's top leaders in Beijing, where he discussed the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Kerry is touring Northeast Asia in a bid to defuse simmering tensions in the region.

In his maiden trip to China as America's top diplomat, John Kerry met with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday, just one month after Beijing completed its once-in-a-decade leadership change.

"Mr President, this is obviously a critical time with some very challenging issues," Kerry told Xi in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. "Issues on the Korean peninsula, the challenge of Iran and nuclear weapons, Syria and the Middle East, and economies around the world that are in need of a boost."

According to Chinese state television, Prime Minister Li told Kerry that all stakeholders in the region should exercise discretion in dealing with the delicate situation on the Korean Peninsula.

"All sides must bear responsibility for maintaining regional peace and stability and be responsible for the consequences," Li said.

China key to North Korea

Kerry's arrival in Beijing comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with the North widely thought to be preparing for a mid-range missile test. Regional tensions have escalated since Pyongyang launched a satellite into orbit last December and tested a nuclear weapon for the third time in February.

The nuclear test led to tightened UN sanctions against the reclusive communist regime.

Kerry has explicitly called on China to use its diplomatic leverage in Pyongyang to convince North Korea's leadership to change course. Beijing is a crucial source of trade and aid for North Korea.

"China has an enormous ability to help make a difference here, and I hope that in our conversation when I get there, that we'll be able to lay out a path ahead that can defuse this tension," Kerry told reporters in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Friday.

"And I think it's clear to everybody in the world that no country in the world has as close a relationship or as significant an impact on the DPRK (North Korea) than China," he added.

Seoul's push for peace

During his meeting with South Korea's new president - Park Guen-Hye - in Seoul on Friday, Kerry said North Korea would be making a "huge mistake" that would lead to further isolation if it went ahead with a missile test. But he also backed Park's diplomatic initiative to "listen to what North Korea thinks" in a bid to defuse tensions.

"President Park was elected with a different vision for the possibilities of peace, and we honor that vision," Kerry said. "We hope that vision is one that will actually take hold here."

"We're prepared to work with the conviction that relations between North and South can improve and they can improve quickly," he added.

slk/tm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)