By John Irish
MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - China will back a U.N. Security Council resolution to make North Korea "pay the necessary price" for recent rocket launches, its foreign minister told Reuters on Friday, adding the goal was to get Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.
Wang Yi also said he was concerned by a possible U.S. deployment of its sophisticated THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense system to South Korea, saying it could also be used to target China.
North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since its first nuclear test in 2006. It has conducted three more atomic tests since then, including last month's, and numerous ballistic missile launches.
Washington and Beijing have appeared divided over how to respond to North Korea, with Washington urging tougher sanctions and Beijing stressing the need for dialogue.
However, Wang told Reuters at an interview in Munich that it was time for a "strong" resolution covering a wide range of areas.
"(We) support the United Nations Security Council to take further steps and in adopting a new resolution so that North Korea will pay the necessary price and show there are consequences for its behavior," the minister said, speaking through an interpreter.
China has insisted it is already making great efforts to achieve denuclearization on the "Korean peninsula" and has previously rejected what it calls "groundless speculation" on its North Korea stance, following remarks from U.S. officials that China could do more.
The U.N. Security Council is discussing a new resolution. Diplomats say the Americans have been pushing for tough measures that go beyond targeting North Korea's atomic weapons and missile programs, while China wanted any future steps to focus on the question of non proliferation.
When asked whether Beijing was ready to support stronger economic sanctions, Wang said the resolution would be wide-ranging, but its objective should be to curb Pyongyang's efforts to develop nuclear and missile technologies.
"Sanctions are not the end, the purpose should be to make sure that the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula should be brought back to the channel of a negotiation-based resolution," he said.
After Wang met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich, Kerry urged China to use its influence in Pyongyang to help the international community increase pressure on it, State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
U.S. HIDDEN AGENDA?
Tensions have been mounting in the region and on Thursday North Korea said it was evicting all South Koreans from the jointly run Kaesong industrial zone, calling the South's move to suspend operations, in retaliation for Sunday's rocket launch by the North, a "declaration of war".
In response to the launch Seoul is set to begin talks with Washington as early as next week on deploying an advanced U.S. missile defense system.
The discussions would focus on placing one Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) unit with the U.S. military in South Korea after the North's launch last weekend, a South Korean defense official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Wang said he was worried by the move and urged the United States to rethink its strategy.
"The facts are clear. The deployment of the THAAD system by the United States ... goes far beyond the defense need of the Korean Peninsula and the coverage would mean it will reach deep into the Asian continent.
"This directly affects the strategic security interests of China and other Asian countries," he said.
He said Washington needed to clarify its motives.
"It doesn't require experts. Ordinary people know that the deployment of the THAAD system is not just to defend South Korea, but a wider agenda and may even serve the possibility of targeting China."
Wang said going forward China's policy would be increasingly attentive on the regional nuclear issue and guided by three principles.
"First the Korean Peninsula cannot be nuclearized. This applies to the North and South. Second, there is no military solution to this issue.
"If there is a war or turbulence it is not acceptable for China. Third, China will not allow its legitimate interests including in national security interests to be undermined."
(Additional reporting by Warren Strobel; Editing by Gareth Jones/Ruth Pitchford)