Wednesday, December 08, 2010

U.S. steps up pressure on China to act on North Korea

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan at the State Department, where the trio pledged support for South Korea in the latest escalation of its long-running conflict with North Korea, and urged China to take on a larger role in constraining Pyongyang.

Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg, is leading a delegation to Asia next week amid increased tensions on the Korean peninsula following North Korean shelling of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island last month, as well as the March sinking of a South Korean warship and recent revelations that it is is enriching uranium for nuclear weapons. His visit will follow a trip to South Korea by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, to show support for the South Korean military.

"The tensions that we see and the dangers that we see come from the fact that (there) does not seem to be effective restraints on North Korea ... in theses provocations," Steinberg said in his speech. "We need to make clear the dangers (that) come from this provocative behavior. And rather than stepping back and tolerating it, we need to make clear that there are consequences for it. … We need a clear indication from North Korea that it understands that this pattern of provoking -- and then hoping that people will reward it to stop the provocations -- is not one that we are going to sanction."

Steinberg's remarks reflect what U.S. officials call a growing frustration at Beijing's reluctance to exert its influence on North Korea and urge Pyongyang to cease its aggressive behavior.

President Barack Obama called Chinese President Hu Jintao and told him that North Korea needs to "halt its provocative behavior," according to the White House.

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