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US military chief urges China to pressure North Korea

A man at a railway station in Seoul watches a television report of a North Korean missile test © AFP/File / JUNG YEON-JE

Beijing, China, Aug 16 – The head of the US military said during a visit to Beijing that it was increasingly urgent for China to step up pressure on North Korea, according to a Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday.

General Joe Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told General Fang Fenghui during a meeting on Tuesday that the United States was ready to use military options if diplomacy fails, Captain Darryn James said in a statement.

During their talks, Dunford and Fang, who is chief of the Joint Staff Department, signed an agreement to improve communication between the offices of top military officials.

But Dunford “stressed that it will only be useful if it results in reducing the risk of miscalculation,” James said.

This “not only has long-term benefits to manage bilateral differences, but is especially critical now due to growing North Korean provocations”.

The US general had “delivered a clear message that North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs threaten the entire global community, including China, Russia, the US and our allies,” James said.

“In the interest of regional stability, he said the US views with growing urgency the need for China to increase pressure on the North Korean regime.”

The administration of US President Donald Trump has exhorted China to strongarm its diplomatic ally into dropping its rogue weapons programmes.

The Chinese Ministry of Defense said in a statement Wednesday that China and the US have maintained close communication on major international and regional issues.

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The statement said that during a meeting between Dunford and Song Puxuan, commander of the northern theatre of the People’s Liberation Army, Song stressed that efforts to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula “should adhere to dialogue and political settlement”.

China — which is Pyongyang’s main economic partner — had announced this week that it was banning imports of iron, iron ore, lead and seafood from North Korea in accordance with new United Nations sanctions.

“Should preferred diplomatic and economic peaceful options fail, Gen. Dunford reiterated America’s resolve to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies in the Republic of (South) Korea and Japan, as well as the US homeland,” James said.

Dunford is visiting China this week after holding meetings with military officials in South Korea, where he reiterated Washington’s readiness to use military means to defend its allies.

The US general continues his China trip on Thursday before heading to Japan.

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