U.S. officials pressed China to get tougher with North Korea during high-level meetings in Washington on Wednesday involving Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe West must deter aggression from tyrants better than it did last century Hillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State Blinken formally announces new State Department cyber bureau MORE and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump's 'Enemies List' — end of year edition The US can't go back to business as usual with Pakistan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE.
Tillerson said the United States “reiterated to China that they have a diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region.”
Both also highlighted the danger posed by North Korea, which Tillerson said was the “most acute threat in the region today.”
The comments come days after the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, a U.S. citizen released last week after more than a year of imprisonment in North Korea. Warmbier returned to the U.S. in a coma.
President Trump tweeted his frustration Tuesday that China has not done more to control North Korea, stating: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”
Asked about the Twitter statement, Mattis said Trump represents “the American peoples’ frustration with the regime that provokes and provokes and provokes and basically plays outside the rules, plays fast and loose with the truth.”
“We see a young man go over there healthy and with a minor act of mischief come home dead, basically,” Mattis said. “This goes beyond any kind of understanding of law and order, of humanity, of responsibility towards any human being.”
Tillerson said the United States and China have called for “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of North Korea.
He also said the two countries had “a frank exchange of views” on Chinese military movements in the South China Sea. China has built artificial islands in the waters to promote territorial claims in the area.
“Secretary Mattis and I were clear that the U.S. position remains unchanged. We oppose changes to the status quo of the past through the militarization of outposts in the South China Sea and excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law,” Tillerson said.
He added that China committed to resolve any disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.
Mattis meanwhile, allowed that “our understanding of the problem is very different than their's, and we had that discussion.”
“We will continue to work to close gaps in our understanding and to work some kind of manner in the future that removes these irritants.”
The two countries also touched on bilateral efforts to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“We decided to adopt greater coordination to face the global threat posed by terrorism,” Tillerson said. “We will be looking to China to help the Iraqi government in specific, meaningful ways to ensure the country’s long-term stability and economic growth as it battles ISIS and begins it’s long process of rebuilding.”
In addition, the United States pressed for “American and universal values like human rights.”
“We will not be shy about raising our concerns on China’s human rights record, and I was direct and candid in our meetings today. Talk is not enough when it comes to increasing cooperation,” he said.