U.S., China to establish regular dialogue channel on N. Korea

BEIJING/WASHINGTON, April 8 (Yonhap) -- The United States and China have agreed to set up a high-level consultation channel to discuss North Korea and other regional security issues, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on a landmark trip to Beijing.

The deal reflects efforts by the two top global powers to cooperate on the North Korea issue despite their rift over Beijing's territorial stands-off with some of its neighboring countries.

North Korea was high on agenda in his meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan on Tuesday (local time).

"The United States and China have a shared interest in achieving a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,‚ÄĚHagel said after the talks.

He stressed the U.S. is deeply concerned about the threat North Korea poses to the U.S. and its regional allies.

The secretary emphasized the importance of promoting a military-to-military relationship between Washington and Beijing.

As part of such an effort, he said, the two sides plan to establish a high-level Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue for consultations on regional security issues including "North Korea and the growing threat posed by its nuclear and missile programs."

The Pentagon later said the dialogue will be held at the level of assistant secretary of defense.

The defense chiefs of the two sides, however, showed discord over territorial rows in the region.

Hagel said China has no right to unilaterally create an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, where it is in disputes with Japan over the sovereignty of a chain of islets.

He added the U.S. will protect Japan and other treaty allies at odds with China.

In response, Chang said his country "will not take the initiative to stir up troubles" there. But he warned Beijing is always ready to take military measures against threats to its sovereignty.

Hagel is on a 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region, during which he also visited Japan and will travel to Mongolia later this week.

It is the first time that he has traveled to China since becoming the Pentagon chief in February last year.

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