“We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang,” Tillerson said on Fox News Channel. “They confirmed to us that they had requested the regime conduct no further nuclear test.”
Tillerson said China also told the U.S. that it had informed North Korea “that if they did conduct further nuclear tests, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own.”
Earlier Thursday, the senior U.S. Navy officer overseeing military operations in the Pacific said the crisis with North Korea is at the worst point he’s ever seen, but he declined to compare the situation to the Cuban missile crisis decades ago.
“It’s real,” Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Harris said he has no doubt that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un intends to fulfill his pursuit of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States. The admiral acknowledged there’s uncertainty within U.S. intelligence agencies over how far along North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are. But Harris said it’s not a matter of if but when.
“There is no doubt in my mind,” Harris said.
China’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment on Tillerson’s remarks on new sanctions, but a spokesman Thursday said Beijing remained committed to implementing sanctions imposed under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“And the reason that China implements relevant resolutions is to fulfill our due international obligation rather than being pressured by any outside parties,” Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing.
China has consistently called for an end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but says it opposes unilateral sanctions imposed without a U.N. mandate. China in January suspended coal imports from the North for the rest of the year, but it did so following the passage of a Security Council resolution capping Pyongyang’s coal exports.
Other economic activity with North Korea remains robust.
Still, Beijing has been increasing pressure on North Korea, and would be willing to impose punitive measures unilaterally in the event of another nuclear test, said Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at Renmin University’s School of International Studies in Beijing.
“So Tillerson’s comments are correct — but be careful, China does so for China’s national interest, not as a result of U.S. pressure,” Cheng said.
The Trump administration has declared that all options, including a targeted military strike, are on the table to block North Korea from carrying out threats against the United States and its allies in the region. But a pre-emptive attack isn’t likely, U.S. officials have said, and the administration is pursuing a strategy of putting pressure on Pyongyang with assistance from China, North Korea’s main trading partner and the…