U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lightened his tone towards North Korea after meeting with Chinese officials, acknowledging that the U.S is still maintaining direct channels of communications with Pyongyang.
Tillerson paid a visit to the Chinese capital Beijing over the weekend amid ongoing tension with North Korea. On Sept. 3, the Pyongyang administration conducted its largest nuclear test, fueling tensions between the U.S and North Korea.
The tensions between the two sides has entered a new phase since U.S President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un exchanged personal insults and threats of war.
In Beijing, Tillerson met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and was later received by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
After holding meetings with Chinese officials, Tillerson told the press that the U.S. was examining North Korea's willingness to talk and called for aims to calm the situation on the Korean Peninsula, adding that it was incumbent on the north to halt its nuclear missile launches.
"We have lines of communication with Pyongyang. We're not in a dark situation, or a blackout," Tillerson told reporters on Sep 30. "We have a couple. …Three channels open to Pyongyang. We can talk to them, we do talk to them," he said without providing further details about these communication channels.
"I think the most immediate action that we need is to calm things down," Tillerson said.
"They're a little overheated right now. And, I think we need to calm them down first. Obviously, it would help if North Korea would stop firing off missiles. That would calm things down a lot," he added.
U.S President Trump's upcoming state visit to China in November and efforts for laying the groundwork ahead of the visit were also one of the main items on Tillerson's agenda.
"Currently, the most important event in our bilateral relations is President Trump's China visit in November. His visit will be a major opportunity for the development of China-U.S. relations," Chinese President Xi reportedly said when receiving the top U.S diplomat.
Tillerson, meanwhile, said the U.S values its relations with China and hopes to increase mutual trust and practical cooperation in various areas while jointly tackle international and regional challenges.
On Thursday, Beijing ordered North Korean-owned businesses and ventures with Chinese partners to close by early January, days after it said it would cut off gas and limit shipments of refined petroleum products, effective on Jan. 1.
China made no mention of crude oil, which makes up the bulk of Chinese energy supplies to North Korea and is not covered by U.N. sanctions. China accounts for around 90 percent of North Korea's foreign trade.
Moreover, the country announced last week that they will limit energy supplies to North Korea and will stop buying its textiles, in accordance with U.N. Security Council sanctions adopted after the isolated state's sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3.
According to Chinese officials, the country fully complies to U.N sanctions on North Korea and, on Sep. 28, the Chinese government ordered North Korean-owned businesses to close in the beginning of January in a move that is considered to be the latest step in complying with the sanctions.
Meanwhile North Korean officials announced that the latest international sanctions were having major impacts on the country.
"The colossal amount of damage caused by these sanctions on the development of our state's livelihood and that of its people is beyond anyone's calculation," a statement from the spokesman of North Korea's Sanctions Damages Investigation Committee said on Sept. 27.
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