A day after the US president said China’s efforts on North Korea had failed, his secretary of state has asked for Beijing’s help. The situation has been complicated by the death of a US student imprisoned by Pyongyang.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged China to help pressure North Korea to rein in its weapons programs.
“[China has a] diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region,” he said in Washington. Tillerson said North Korea was the “top security threat” to the US.
Tillerson made the comments at a press conference after high-level talks with Chinese officials at the State Department.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis vowed at the same press conference to “continue to take necessary measures to defend ourselves and our allies” against North Korea, which is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US.
The meeting of top US and Chinese diplomats and defense chiefs came just a day after US President Donald Trump said China’s efforts to use its leverage with Pyongyang had failed.
On Tuesday, Trump posted a tweet suggesting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts were ineffective, a message he reiterated before supporters in Iowa.
“I do like President Xi,” he told the crowd Wednesday evening. “I wish we would have a little more help with respect to North Korea, from China. That doesn’t seem to be working.”
Trump did not elaborate on what might happen next if China fails to rein in its ally.
Trump’s approach to North Korea was further complicated by the death of American university student Otto Warmbier earlier this week, after he was recently released in a comatose state 17 months after being jailed in Pyongyang.
In Beijing, officials insisted they have not given up hope of influencing Pyongyang.
“To resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, China has been making unremitting efforts and we have been playing an important and constructive role,” said Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, while stressing China was not the “focus and the crux” of the crisis.
Tillerson said Trump would make a state visit to China later this year, and Mattis said both sides had agreed to expand military-to-military ties.
A US official said on Tuesday that spy satellites had detected new movements at North Korea’s nuclear test site, but it was unclear if Pyongyang was preparing for a sixth nuclear test.
aw/cmk (AFP, dpa)