Washington and Beijing must forge a stronger partnership to address North Korea's nuclear aggression, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday in the Chinese capital.

"Kim Jong Un's actions are reckless and they are dangerous," Kerry told a press conference following his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a two-day visit.

"The US will do what is necessary to protect people in our country and friends around the world," Kerry said, adding that China has a "particular ability ... to help us significantly to resolve this challenge."

"We agree on the importance of a strong UN resolution [on North Korea]," Kerry said.

Following North Korea's fourth nuclear bomb test earlier this month, Kerry said he would push China to do more to pressure Kim's regime.

Wang told the press conference the two had a "positive, candid and constructive meeting."

However, the foreign minister downplayed the need for international sanctions on North Korea.

"Sanctions are not an end in itself. The key is to resolve the issue," he said.

"The [United Nations] should not provoke new tensions and destabilize the North Korea peninsula," Wang added.

Kerry arrived in the Chinese capital late Tuesday after spending two days meeting with leaders of South-East Asian nations to encourage a united stance against Beijing’s increasingly assertive pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea.

At the press conference, Wang reiterated China's "historical" sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which includes areas controlled or claimed by other nations.

Chinese state media preemptively took a defensive stance on the nuclear issue.

"Before pressing China ... the top US diplomat should first review his country's dogged policy on this issue," a commentary by the official Xinhua news agency said Wednesday.

"The exacerbating situation on the peninsula in recent years has been deplorable. But it boils down to Uncle Sam's uncompromising hostility, manifested in its unceasing defaming, sanctions, isolation and provocation of the DPRK, flaring up the country's sense of insecurity and thus pushing it towards reckless nuclear brinkmanship."

North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK.

Analysts say China is unwilling to use its full influence to pressure North Korea to slow its nuclear development, mostly out of worry that too much pressure would lead to the collapse of Kim Jong Un's regime.

This could potentially lead to a flood of North Korean refugees into China.

"China's strategy continues to be characterized by the following priorities: No war, no instability, no nuclear weapons," Mikko Huotari of the Mercator Institute for China Studies told dpa.

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