Earlier this month, Pyongyang conducted what it said was a successful test of a hydrogen bomb — a move that drew international condemnation.
China is an economic lifeline for North Korea. A focal point for Kerry will be urging Beijing to use its leverage to try to convince Pyongyang to stop such tests, which are considered provocative by world powers.
Also, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China’s support is crucial for passage of any U.N. penalties against North Korea.
However, analysts say China sometimes appears to be hesitant about imposing additional penalties on its neighbor because of competing interests.
“For China, the challenge is balancing the need to punish North Korea with their concerns about stability in North Korea. So, they want to push but they don’t want to push too hard,” says Scott Snyder, a Korean studies analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waves to tourists after he entered the famed Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia, Jan. 25, 2016.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken traveled ahead of Kerry to Asia where he discussed North Korea’s action with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.
Blinken said they stood firmly united “in strongly condemning this test, and in our determination, to impose costs for the DPRK’s (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) flaunting of its international obligations.»
Kerry will meet with officials including China’s President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Another focal point during the talks will be the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, where China and others in the Asia-Pacific region, including Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines, have overlapping claims.
Earlier this month, regional tensions flared when China tested a runway on one of its artificial islands in the region.
China is the last leg of Kerry’s three-nation tour of Asia that also included stops in Laos and Cambodia.