The top US military officer warned North Korea yesterday that the US commitment to helping South Korea defend itself was “unquestioned,” even as he pressed China to use its influence to push the North to change.
In a clear show of unity with South Korea, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, called recent North Korean aggression, including an artillery attack last month that killed four South Koreans, “belligerent, reckless behavior.”
He said China appeared unwilling to use its enormous leverage to rein in the North.
“China has unique influence. Therefore, they bear unique responsibility,” Mullen said at a joint news conference with his South Korean counterpart, General Han Min-koo. “Now is the time for Beijing to step up to that responsibility and help guide the North, and the entire region, toward a better future.”
Mullen warned that the North should not mistake Seoul’s restraint as a lack of resolve or “as willingness to accept continued attacks.”
“Your readiness to defend your territory and your citizens is unmistakable, and my country’s commitment to helping you do that is unquestioned,” Mullen said.
Asked about the South Korean defense minister’s vow to bomb North Korea should there be more attacks, Mullen said Seoul has “every right to protect its people and to respond as it sees fit.”
He didn’t ask South Korea to “take air options off the table,” Mullen said, adding: “The goal clearly is to have a deterrent effect so that all-out war never occurs.”