The highest-ranking U.S. military officer urged China on Thursday to do more to prevent North Korea from taking provocative actions.
Holding a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, harshly condemned Pyongyang for its recent belligerence against Seoul and the disclosure of a new uranium enrichment facility.
Much of the volatility in the world today “is owed to the reckless behavior of the North Korean regime enabled by their friends in China,” Mullen said. Pyongyang’s “utter refusal to make informed, mature decisions on behalf of their own people defies both logic and human compassion.”
Mullen was in Japan to meet with top defense officials, including Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, to discuss North Korean issues. Mullen was in South Korea on Wednesday for talks with Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin and other officials.
North Korea’s artillery attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island last month killed four people, including two civilians. In response, China, North Korea’s primary ally, suggested an emergency session of the six-party North-denuclearization talks with Pyongyang, which Japan, the U.S. and South Korea rejected.
Mullen urged China to step in and pressure North Korea to halt its provocations.
“There is no country in the world that has more influence in Pyongyang than China,” he said. “And that’s part of responsible leadership, that’s part of being a global power, and I would hope that they would heed this call and do that.”
During their meeting earlier in the day, the Joint Chiefs chairman and Kitazawa agreed to strengthen trilateral cooperation between Japan, the U.S. and South Korea.
During the news conference, Mullen expressed alarm over the rising tension on the Korean Peninsula and pointed out that joint military exercises are one form of trilateral cooperation.
“I . . . have a real sense of urgency about addressing the potential in terms of the Korean Peninsula that is much better addressed with all of us together in terms of showing strength, and getting to a point where we are able to deter North Korean behavior,” Mullen said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yutaka Banno said later that trilateral cooperation is “extremely important” for peace and stability in East Asia but expressed hesitancy about Japanese participation in joint military exercises, stressing the need for “careful consideration.”