With North Korea recently conducting its fourth nuclear test, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to discuss both nation’s responses. Mr. Kerry took a strong stance, saying that if China does not do more to restrict North Korea’s nuclear program, the United States will take action, including the deployment of defense systems to protect American allies in the region, a move that China is strongly against. Said Mr. Kerry: “This is a threat the United States must take extremely seriously. The United States will take all necessary steps to protect our people and allies.”

China agreed Wednesday to new sanctions imposed by the United Nations against North Korea, but Mr. Wang cautioned that the sanctions “must not provoke new tensions.” China has pushed for a new round of talks on North Korea, and analysts have said that China has decided it would rather have a friendly nuclear state than a hostile one on its borders.  However, Mr. Kerry is pressuring China to impose its own strict sanctions on North Korea, and specifically to deprive the country of oil and financial capital that help keep its desperate economy running. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill calling for sanctions against Chinese groups that support the North Korea military, as well as certain illegal economic activities.

Although it is good to see China and the United States in serious discussion of this issue, I think that the differences that exist between them are a potential cause for conflict in the coming months and years. China has never taken kindly to an increasing American presence in Asia, and with the threat of North Korea growing, I don’t think that the U.S. will be backing off anytime soon.