Top commander: Don’t bet on China reining in North Korea


The top U.S. admiral in the Pacific said Thursday he “wouldn’t bet his farm” on China effectively reining in North Korea.

Still, Adm. Harry Harris said he’s seen positive behavior from China since its president, Xi Jinping, met with President Trump at the beginning of this month and that the United States should wait to see how that unfolds.

“I have been skeptical up to the recent discussions between President Trump and President Xi,” Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“So I think that we’re seeing more activity proactive, more positive activity from China than we’ve seen in a long time. I remain cautiously optimistic, but certainly hopeful.”

{mosads}Harris was responding to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the committee, who asked whether they should be skeptical of the U.S.’s ability to persuade China to rein in North Korea.

Further pressed by McCain on whether the U.S. should rely on China, Harris said “it’s too early to tell.”

“It’s only been a month or so,” Harris continued. But when pressed again on relying on China, Harris said, “I wouldn’t bet my farm on it.”

Trump has placed an emphasis on getting China to help deal with North Korea, but has said the U.S. can go it alone if China won’t help.

Experts have long said China has the most influence over Pyongyang as its biggest trading partner and closest thing to an ally. But they’ve added that Beijing is hesitant to push too hard for fear of North Korea collapsing, likely prompting a flood of refugees into China and possibly a unified Korea allied with the United States.

Trump himself admitted that using China to stop North Korea won’t be as easy as he thought, telling the Wall Street Journal that “after listening [to Xi] for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy.”

“I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea,” Trump added. “But it’s not what you would think.”

On Thursday, Harris said China is as much to blame for North Korea’s progress on its nuclear and missile program as Pyongyang.

Harris did not have specifics on what China has done differently in the past month, but said it’s been “active in working the problems.”

“Past performance is no indicator of future productivity,” he added. “From a month ago forward, I mean, we’re seeing some positive behavior from China, and I’m encouraged by that. So I think we should let this thing play out a little bit and see where it goes.”

Harris added that North Korea has not yet conducted its sixth nuclear test as expected nor tested an intercontinental ballistic missile as it threatened, but that he can’t say for certain whether that’s because of anything China has done.

“I don’t know if there’s a cause and effect, or whether it just doesn’t fit [leader Kim Jong Un’s] schedule,” Harris said. “Again, it’s early days on this, so I think we would be best served to see if this has a positive outcome or not.”

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