China welcomes US assurances to North Korea; calls for talks

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BEIJING (AP) — China's foreign minister on Thursday welcomed comments by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offering reassurance to North Korea that Washington isn't seeking regime change there.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a briefing that Beijing "attaches great importance" to Tillerson's remarks on North Korea. Tillerson said Tuesday that the United States does not seek a collapse of the North Korean regime or an accelerated reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Wang said China hopes all sides could "meet each other half way to find a fundamental plan to resolve the security concerns of the parties through equal dialogue."

But Tillerson also said the U.S. does not think productive talks would result if North Korea comes with the intention of maintaining its nuclear weapons.

Tillerson also continued to push for Chinese help in keeping pressure on North Korea because of their special economic relationship. He said the North Korean problem is not China's fault, but China must help create conditions for productive talks.

China is the North's biggest trading partner and food and fuel aid source. Chinese companies also have a virtual monopoly on investment in North Korea's economy, particularly natural resources.

U.S. President Donald Trump has grown increasingly frustrated by what he says is China's reluctance to rein in North Korea. "I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade," Trump tweeted recently, "yet ... they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk."

"We will no longer allow this to continue," he added. "China could easily solve this problem!"

China says it shouldn't be held responsible for resolving the North Korean nuclear standoff alone and has said other countries are shirking their responsibilities in the effort to reduce tensions.

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