After a Chinese envoy arrived in South Korea, the two sides have reportedly reached an agreement to take "strong action" against North Korea if nuclear and ballistic missile testing continues, according to VOA News.
Joel Witt, co-founder of 38 North, a website that brings together experts on North Korea, told Business Insider that the country's nuclear and ballistic missile progress has appeared to rapidly increase over the past year as the program reaches the point where it needs to be tested.
Evidence of strained ties along the China/North Korea border
But with each test, North Korea gets closer to its goal of creating an intercontinental ballistic missile that can threaten the US mainland. US President Donald Trump's administration has been clear that they would take military action if need be to prevent this.
Trump, in an interview with the Financial Times before his meeting last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping said "if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."
It remains to be seen if South Korea and China's vision of unacceptable behavior matches the US', as the US has signaled growing impatience with the Kim regime's nuclear posturing.
Now, with the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and strike group redirected to the Korean peninsula, South Korea and Chinese diplomats seem to have struck an agreement on handling the North Korean missile threat that does not involve a US strike.
North Korea reacted to the Vinson's deployment by calling it an "outrageous act" and saying it is "ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US."
While the US certainly sent a message with a recent salvo of 59 cruise missiles rocking a Syrian airbase, it faces far more limited options in striking North Korea, due to myriad nuclear and conventional missile launchers and a massive array of artillery that could effectively level Seoul, South Korea's capital of 10 million people.
Experts have told Business Insider that while China disapproves of North Korea's nuclear threats, it has a much deeper interest in preserving a North Korean state as a buffer against Western influences, and also fears a strong, united Korea complete with democracy and US military installations.
Furthermore, the Chinese appear to have been spooked by a recent deployment of advanced missile defenses to South Korea, which the US put in place after a particularly provocative missile test from the North.
Trump reportedly discussed the north Korean issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, with the two reaffirming their commitment to denuclearizing the peninsula and adhering to all UN sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom.