U.S. lawmakers say China has failed to rein in North Korea

WASHINGTON Sun Apr 7, 2013 12:55pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China has failed to use its influence to stop North Korea's warlike rhetoric against the United States and U.S.-backed South Korea, despite an escalating crisis that could trigger armed conflict by accident, U.S. lawmakers said on Sunday.

Republican Senator John McCain, a member of the Armed Services Committee, criticized China's "failure to rein in what could be a catastrophic situation," saying Beijing could step up pressure on Pyongyang by using its influence over North Korea's economy.

"China does hold the key to this problem. China could cut off their economy if they want to. Chinese behavior has been very disappointing," McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation" program.

"More than once, wars have started by accident and this is a very serious situation," he added.

"South Korea would win. We would win if there was an all-out conflict. But the fact is that North Korea could set Seoul on fire. And that obviously would be a catastrophe of enormous proportions," McCain said.

Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who has been a prominent critic of China's currency policy, said he agreed with McCain.

"The Chinese hold a lot of the cards here. They're by nature cautious. But they're carrying it to an extreme. It's about time they stepped up to the plate and put a little pressure on this North Korean regime," Schumer said on the same program.

North Korea has threatened war against the United States and the South in what analysts and U.S. politicians see as an attempt to wring concessions from the international community and shore up internal support for Pyongyang's 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong-un.

The senators' comments came as China, North Korea's sole financial and diplomatic backer, showed growing irritation with Pyongyang's vitriolic rhetoric toward the West.

Beijing has warned against "trouble making" on its doorstep in an apparent rebuke to North Korea, while Chinese leaders have spoken against provocative words and actions in the region.

On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry expressed "grave concern" and said China had asked North Korea to "ensure the safety of Chinese diplomats in North Korea, in accordance with the Vienna Convention and international laws and norms."

'BOILING POINT'

Meanwhile, the United States has postponed the long-scheduled test of its Minuteman III intercontinental missile to avoid what a defense official called "any misperception or miscalculation."

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman told CNN on Sunday that it was unprecedented for Chinese President Xi Jinping to warn in a recent speech that no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain."

"It suggests to me, as I've watched the ratcheting up of frustration among Chinese leaders over the last many years, that they've probably hit the 212-degree boiling point as it relates to North Korea," Huntsman said.

The White House on Sunday had no immediate comment on recent Chinese statements.

But White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told ABC's "This Week" program that North Korea is following a long-standing pattern of "provocative actions, bellicose rhetoric."

"The key here is for the North Koreans to stop their actions, start meeting their international obligations and put themselves in a position where they can achieve what is their stated goal, which is economic development," he said.

China also came under fire from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading voice on foreign policy issues who also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

"I blame the Chinese more than anybody else. They're afraid of reunification. They don't want a democratic Korea next to China, so they are propping up this crazy regime. And they could determine the fate of North Korea better than anybody on the planet," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Eric Beech)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
reality-again wrote:
China’s leaders appear to be rather clueless in their handling of this situation, which is potentially risky for China and pretty harmless for the US.
This makes China look weaker and more vulnerable than it probably is.

Apr 07, 2013 4:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MikeBarnett wrote:
The US has failed to control Pakistan, so the world should impose unlimited economic and military sanctions on the US. The US has failed to control Afghanistan, so the world should impose unlimited economic and military sanctions on the US. I could go down a long list of nations that the US has failed to “control,” but the US should learn from its own failures instead of telling lies about China.

The US has chosen to keep a 63 year war with North Korea instead of signing a peace treaty. The excuse of the Cold War ended in 1990, so US leaders have had 23 years to solve this issue. The Bush Axis of Evil policy linked Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, and the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003 caused the DPRK to make nuclear weapons in 2006 and 2009. US lies and threats against Iran since 2003 have made North Korea worry that it will become the third US war crime. The missile launch in 2012 and nuclear test in 2013 were sound moves given current US and Israeli rhetoric against Iran. A US or Israeli attack on Iran may be the trigger for a North Korean attack that the US has earned for itself.

Apr 07, 2013 4:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mgunn wrote:
Amazing how much people project what they think china can do to n korea, because we know what we try to do to maintain influence throughout the world with our “aid”. Yet it’s obvious we don’t control very well the Israeli, Iraqi, and Afghani government just to name a few examples.

And didn’t WikiLeaks already show the chinese are okay with a unified korea run by the SOUTH as long as the alliance with the US is “benign” (probably meaning no troops on the border). This is telling as it means the chinese think the N Koreans are going to eventually collapse, but the chinese don’t want shock therapy which is something the US likes a lot (think shock and awe, and how we handle our economy, etc.)

Apr 07, 2013 4:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.