NNA – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday urged Chinese officials to apply greater diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to force Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear weapons program.
Tillerson’s remarks came after he and Pentagon chief Jim Mattis met with the Chinese visitors at the State Department, where the former general said he saw scope for a better defense relationship.
The extent to which Beijing can influence Pyongyang is key in trying to defuse the North Korea crisis, and Tillerson’s remarks came the day after President Donald Trump appeared to suggest China’s President Xi Jinping had come up short in efforts to lean on Kim Jong-Un’s regime.
Calling North Korea the “top security threat” to the United States, Tillerson said 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”.
For their part, the Chinese envoys voiced their opposition to Washington’s deployment of the THAAD anti-missile defense system in South Korea and demanded its withdrawal, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
China — represented by top diplomat Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui — also pressed for negotiations, proposing again a “dual-track approach” in which North Korea would suspend its nuclear and missile activities while the United States and South Korea would halt large-scale military exercises.
Trump, who frequently denounced China on the campaign trail, has turned to Beijing to help pressure its ally North Korea, prompting concern among Asian partners that America might go easy on the South China Sea territorial dispute.
But on Tuesday, Trump sent a tweet suggesting Xi’s efforts had not borne fruit — 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 has not elaborated on what might happen next if China, by far the North’s most important trading and diplomatic partner, is out of ideas.
Tillerson said the US and Chinese officials had agreed that companies from both countries should not do business with any UN-designated North Korean entities.–AFP