“I think you’re seeing China playing a much more active role with respect to North Korea,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “They have taken some very helpful actions and exhibited positive signs on the diplomatic front as well. It’s encouraging, the signs that China is showing.”
North Korea tried to launch a medium-range missile Sunday, but the test failed just as Vice President Mike Pence was arriving in South Korea for talks. A North Korean official told the BBC that Pyongyang will “be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” adding that an “all-out war” would result if the U.S. took military action.
Mr. Trump held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping two weeks ago in Florida, urging the Chinese leader to exert more pressure on its neighbor North Korea to scale back its nuclear weapons program. China reportedly has been refusing shipments of North Korean coal, a major export for that country.
“The president had a really good meeting with President Xi,” Mr. Spicer said. “The results of that are paying off. I think to see them curtail some of that has a real economic impact on the region. Both politically and economically, they can continue to apply pressure to achieve results. And I think we’re going to continue to urge China to exhibit its influence in the region to get better results.”
Mr. Spicer said the “era of strategic patience was a policy that the Obama administration enacted to basically wait and see.”
“We have now understood that that policy is not one that is prudent for the United States,” he said.
The U.S. hasn’t said what other steps it might take.
Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said the U.S. is focused “on getting some tangible signal from the North Korean regime that it is serious about engaging in talks, and such signals would not include things like launching illegal missiles, as happened over the weekend.”
“I don’t think there’s a realistic expectation of some kind of serious engagement from the international community while the North Koreans are continuing in all of this provocative and, frankly, illegal behavior,” she said. “We need to see that there’s some kind of a different path forward before we can engage in any kind of serious discussions with them.”
“For us to telegraph what we’re going to do or what we’re going to ask others to do would not be a smart strategy,” Mr. Spicer said.
“We’ve got a lot of tools left and a lot of conversations that are ongoing. We’re going to continue to work with China.”
North Korea showed no signs of easing its stark defiance of the new administration in Washington.
Kim In Ryong, Pyongyang’s deputy U.N. ambassador accused the United States in a news conference Monday of turning the Korean Peninsula into “the world’s biggest hot spot” and creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”
“If the U.S. dares opt for a military action,” North Korea “is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.,” the North Korean envoy said, adding that easing the U.S. hostile policy toward the North “is the precondition to solving all the problems in the Korean Peninsula.”
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