Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:41PM
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi take their seats before a meeting on the sidelines of a gathering of foreign ministers of the G20 in Bonn, western Germany, on February 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi take their seats before a meeting on the sidelines of a gathering of foreign ministers of the G20 in Bonn, western Germany, on February 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on China to help rein in North Korea’s provocative actions after Pyongyang launched its latest ballistic missile test early this week.

The top US diplomat made the plea on the sidelines of a first-time meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, during a G20 foreign ministers summit in the German city of Bonn on Friday.

"Tillerson also highlighted the increasing threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and urged China to use all available tools to moderate North Korea's destabilizing behaviour," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Following Tillerson’s comments, Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement quoting Wang as saying, "China and the United States have joint responsibility to maintain global stability and promote global prosperity, and both sides' joint interests are far greater than their differences."

The statement added that, “The two countries should increase mutual trust, deepen cooperation and ensure that under Trump they make even greater contributions to global peace and prosperity.”

The remarks are made while Beijing, which is North Korea's only ally and main trading partner, has so far shown itself reluctant to put too much pressure on Pyongyang over its previous series of ballistic and nuclear missile tests.

This photo released on February 13 by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows the launch of a Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile. (Via AFP)

South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that its northern neighbor had launched a missile test near the western city of Kusong, adding that the missile had flown 500 kilometers eastwards before falling into the Sea of Japan

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed a day later that Pyongyang had “successfully” tested a “surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile.”

The launch has concerned Japan and South Korea and their ally the United States. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was visiting US President Donald Trump in Florida when the launch occurred, called the test “absolutely intolerable.”

Trump reacted to the test only by saying that the US stood behind Japan, “its great ally, 100 percent.”

Tillerson later pledged that Washington would use the full range of its arsenal, including nuclear weapons, to defend Tokyo and Seoul against Pyongyang.

"The United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to its allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, including the commitment to provide extended deterrence, backed by the full range of its nuclear and conventional defense capabilities," he said.

North Korea faces international pressure to abandon its arms development and nuclear program. Yet, it says the programs aim to protect the country from US hostilities.

The US has military forces in South Korea and is planning to deploy an advanced missile system there in response to perceived threats from the North. The US also occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.