Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks during a High Level Leaders meeting on Refugees on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S. September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid(reuters_tickers)
By David Brunnstrom
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday that countries must remain committed to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula while seeking a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue.
Li, in a speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly, said maritime disputes should also be resolved through talks, a reference to disputes in the South China Sea.
"We should remain committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula ... and seek consultation and dialogue for a solution, so as to maintain the international nuclear non-proliferation regime," Li said.
"China also maintains that disputes concerning territory and maritime rights and interests should be resolved through dialogue and negotiation. We need to expand common ground while shelving differences."
China has competing maritime claims with several East Asian countries and its assertive pursuit of territory in the South China Sea is a potential flashpoint and a cause of significant friction in its relations with the United States.
China is North Korea's neighbour and main ally, but has been angered by its repeated missile and nuclear tests and backed tough U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang. At the same time, it has repeatedly called for a return to international talks to resolve the issue, in spite of scepticism of other world powers.
U.N. diplomats said China and the United States have started discussions on a possible U.N. sanctions resolution on North Korea. Washington said Li and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in New York on Monday to step up cooperation in the U.N. Security Council and in law enforcement channels
Obama said on Tuesday that North Korea's nuclear tests were a danger to all and it must face consequences.
China and the United States are also targeting the finances of Liaoning Hongxiang Industrial, a Chinese conglomerate headed by a Communist Party cadre that the Obama administration thinks has a role in assisting North Korea's nuclear programme, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.
China's Foreign Ministry said the Liaoning Hongxiang Group was under investigation following the provisions of U.N. resolution 2270, which imposed tighter sanctions on North Korea in March.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Grant McCool)