Kerry has said China will be key in facilitating those talks, and expressed strong confidence in Beijing's willingness to pressure Pyongyang. An ally of North Korea, China has historically had strong military and economic ties with the reclusive regime, but on Saturday, Beijing and Washington released a joint statement confirming their commitment to denuclearization. Neither country has provided details on steps they plan to take, aside from a willingness to restart stalled six-party talks.
"The absence of [Chinese pressure] is in fact creating a level of stability that actually threatens China," Kerry said.
He added, Beijing had the greatest leverage with North Korea because it was "their lifeline."
Pyongyang has rejected public overtures for negotiation so far. Following South Korean President Park Guen-hye's initial calls for dialogue, North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland called the offer "a cunning ploy" and an "empty shell."
Kerry's four-day trip to Asia ends at the start of North Korea's "Juche" calendar, which begins with Kim Il-Sung's birthday. The biggest holiday of the year, families gather as the state rations snacks, and distributes clothing, and sweets. North Korean state TV, which normally limits its broadcasts to a few hours in the evening, play documentaries of Kim's life accomplishments throughout the day. They also air a series of musical concerts, including one that features a girl band in white mini-dresses.
Despite that festive mood, South Korean military forces remain on alert for any potential provocations. Defense Ministry spokesman Kim said the launch might be Monday, though nobody could predict an exact date. If North Korea fueled the missile prior to last Wednesday, it could be launched shortly after a decision is made, he said.