‘China’s starting to do something on North Korea’: US praises Beijing’s efforts to pressure Pyongyang over nuclear crisis
US National Security Adviser puts Beijing’s cooperation down to Trump’s pledge to take military action against Pyongyang
US President Donald Trump’s top security adviser lauded efforts by China to close ranks with Washington in isolating North Korea and downplayed a potential spat with Seoul over a missile defence system the US military is deploying in South Korea.
US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s expressions of confidence in, and willingness to cooperate with, China and South Korea in the escalating standoff in Northeast Asia follow a ballistic missile test by North Korea’s military on Saturday.
McMaster told Fox News on Sunday that China’s cooperation was as a result of Trump’s pledge to take military action against North Korea if Beijing didn’t start to apply more pressure by enforcing existing sanctions.
The top adviser added that he expects China and all countries to step up efforts to isolate Pyongyang, in line with comments made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday, hours before North Korea’s most recent missile test.
“We do see China starting to do something. We’ve seen it in Chinese public statements; we’ve seen it in the Chinese press”, McMaster said. “You see it in the more strident and stringent enforcement of existing UN sanctions.”
Turning to the US$1-billion advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system designed to defend against nuclear-armed North Korea, McMaster said the US would foot the bill in accordance with an existing agreement in place with Seoul.
Trump said in an interview with the Reuters news agency on Thursday that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD deployment, raising questions about Washington’s commitment to cooperate with South Korea on North Korea.
“Until any renegotiation, the [THAAD] deal is still in place,” McMaster said, adding that Trump wanted US allies in the region to contribute more in a general sense.
“What the president has asked us to do is to look across all of our alliances and to have appropriate burden sharing, responsibility sharing.”
Major components of the missile defence system have been moved into place in Seongju, a southeastern county, sparking protests from South Koreans who oppose Seoul’s military alliance with the US and local residents who fear the installation makes them a target.
Beijing has also protested against the THAAD deployment on the grounds that the system’s powerful radar capability could be used to spy on Chinese military operations.
Tillerson told a special UN Security Council session on Friday that all countries should suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea in order to pressure the country to give up its nuclear weapons programme.
“North Korea exploits its diplomatic privileges to fund its illicit nuclear technology programmes and constraining its diplomatic activity will cut off a flow of needed resources”, Tillerson said. “In light of recent action, normal relations with the DPRK are simply not acceptable.”