by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 18, 2016
China could do much more than it has to get North Korea to "stop provocations," US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday after Pyongyang conducted two ballistic missile tests.
Carter said China has by far the greatest influence over its Stalinist neighbor and "it could do a lot more."
"The president has urged the Chinese leadership to get in the game and try to get them (the North Koreans) to a position where they stop provocations and ultimately do what they signed up to do, which is to have a non-nuclear Korean peninsula both North and South," he said at a breakfast with journalists.
The latest tests, which came amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, were believed to involve two medium-range Rodong missiles, one of which splashed down in the Sea of Japan and the other which disappeared from radar shortly after launch.
They follow a fourth North Korean nuclear test on January 6 and a satellite launch a month later that was widely viewed as an intercontinental ballistic missile test in disguise.
Pyongyang has maintained a daily barrage of nuclear strike threats against both Seoul and Washington over the past two weeks, ostensibly over ongoing, large-scale South Korea-US military drills that the North sees as provocative rehearsals for invasion.
Carter said the US military was responding by "doing things to strengthen deterrence every day," notably strengthening missile defenses "to defend our own folks and also South Korea and Japan."
North Korea is estimated to have a small arsenal of nuclear weapons, but analysts are doubtful it has developed the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead atop a ballistic missile.
The US State Department called on North Korea "to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region."
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the missile launches, adding that Tokyo was consulting with the United States and South Korea on a course of action.
The United States and South Korea have begun discussions on deployment in the south of a sophisticated missile defense system known as the Theater High Altitude Area Defense System, or THAAD. China is wary of having such a system in place so close to its own territory.
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