Mullen headed to S. Korea to show U.S. support
SEOUL — China must put more pressure on North Korea to stop provocations in the increasingly tense northeast Asia region and to end its nuclear programs, top diplomats from the United States, South Korea and Japan said Monday during a meeting in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was scheduled to meet with top South Korean defense officials in Seoul on Wednesday as “basically a show of support” following North Korea’s bombardment of a populated South Korean island two weeks ago, U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten said.
Oten said Mullen will meet with his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Han Min-koo, at the Ministry of National Defense but will not visit any U.S. bases. USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp is also expected to attend the meetings.
Mullen’s visit was planned late last week, but his spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby, said the meeting is not considered an emergency consultation, according to the U.S. Armed Forces Press Service.
Monday’s meeting in Washington was a show of unity that appeared to be meant to send a message not just to North Korea, but also to its closest ally, China.
South Korea Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said Monday that China has made some contributions to stability in the region but must do more.
“We would like China to have a more clear stance in giving warning to North Korea and to contain these provocative actions by North Korea,” he said.
The meeting was an effort to build a circle of pressure around North Korea. Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said in remarks before the meeting that “we will turn this meeting into one that will get the engagement, firm engagement, of China and Russia in our efforts as well.”
In addition to the attack on Yeonpyeong island, which killed two South Korean marines and two civilians, North Korea revealed last month that it is building a new uranium enrichment facility — a step that could hasten its development of nuclear weapons. North Korea is also believed to have launched a torpedo that sank a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in March, killing 46 sailors.
President Barack Obama urged China President Hu Jintao during a Sunday telephone call to pressure North Korea to end the provocations and work with the U.S. in doing so, according to the White House. The U.S., Japan and South Korea have increased their displays of military force since the Nov. 23 assault on Yeonpyeong.
The U.S. and South Korea held a four-day exercise last week in the Yellow Sea with a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, though officials said the exercise had been planned before Nov. 23.
South Korea began a live-fire exercise Monday at 29 locations across the peninsula that military officials described as routine training. For the first time, South Korea was an observer at the massive U.S.-Japan Keen Sword exercise, scheduled to end Friday.