US calls on China to end 'business as usual' with North Korea

Thursday 07 January 2016 21.52
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (R)
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (R)

The United States has called on China on Thursday to end "business as usual" with its ally North Korea after it defied world powers by announcing it had tested a hydrogen bomb.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he made clear in a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that China's approach to North Korea had failed.

"China had a particular approach that it wanted to make, that we agreed and respected to give them space to implement that," Mr Kerry told reporters.

"Today in my conversation with the Chinese I made it very clear that has not worked and we cannot continue business as usual."

China is the North's main economic and diplomatic backer, although relations between the two Cold War allies have cooled in recent years.

The vast majority of North Korea's business dealings are with China, which bought 90% of the isolated country's exports in 2013, according to data compiled by South Korea's International Trade Association.

North Korea carried out a nuclear test on Wednesday, although the US government and weapons experts doubt the North’s assertion that the device it exploded was a powerful hydrogen bomb.

The test angered both the US and China, which was not given prior notice.

As of Thursday morning, "sniffer" planes and other sensors had yet to detect any evidence, such as particles in the air, that would substantiate the North Korean assertion that it had set off an H-Bomb, a US government source said.

North Korea also said it was capable of miniaturising the hydrogen bomb, in theory allowing it to be placed on a missile and threatening the US west coast, South Korea and Japan.

US politicians in the House of Representatives could join forces in a rare display of unity to further tighten sanctions on North Korea.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, told reporterst hat Democrats would support a North Korea bill likely to be brought for a vote by Republicans next week.

A congressional source said it was expected as soon as Monday.

The legislation was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last February but it was stalled until the North jolted the world by setting off an underground nuclear bomb test.

The House measure would target banks facilitating North Korea's nuclear program and authorize freezing of US assets of those directly linked to illicit North Korean activities.

It would also penalize those involved in business providing North Korea with hard currency.

The United States and its ally South Korea are limited in their military response.

After North Korea last tested a nuclear device, in 2013, the US sent a pair of nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on a sortie over South Korea in a show of force.

At the time, North Korea responded by threatening a nuclear strike on the US.

The test also alarmed Japan.

Its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, agreed with US President Barack Obama in a telephone call that a firm global response was needed, the White House said.

Mr Obama also discussed options with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea.

A South Korean military official told Reuters that Seoul and Washington had discussed the deployment of US strategic assets on the divided Korean peninsula, but declined to give further details.