BEIJING— A top military official in China says it is possible North Korea could carry out a fourth nuclear test.
Speaking at a news conference following meetings with his U.S. counterpart, General Fang Fenghui, the chief of the general staff of China’s army spoke of the need to re-start long-stalled talks with North Korea.
General Fang said China is firmly opposed to North Korea’s carrying out of nuclear tests, but added there is a possibility it could go forward with a fourth test.
He says, "As far as the Chinese side is concerned, we are willing to work actively with all sides to persuade North Korea to stop nuclear tests and to stop producing nuclear weapons. A nuclear-free peninsula is in the interest of all parties.”
Fang did not say when Beijing believed such a test might be carried out. He also did not say what measures China is prepared to take to dissuade North Korea from ending its nuclear ambitions.
Secretary of State John Kerry says China is key to resolving the nuclear standoff with North Korea. Following a recent trip to Beijing, Kerry told U.S. lawmakers that without China, North Korea would collapse.
Kerry sent U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey to try to firm up ways Beijing and Washington could work together to end the standoff and tensions on the Korean peninsula.
General Dempsey says the United States is committed to building a better, deeper, more enduring relationship with China.
"Increased cooperation, improved channels of communication and continuous interaction between our militaries improves our relationship and certainly helps us to understand each other better," said Dempsey.
Dempsey tried to set aside China’s concerns that a new U.S. policy, the pivot to Asia or rebalancing to the region as Washington calls it, is aimed at containing China’s rise onto the global stage.
"My presence here should be an indication of that," said Dempsey. "And we are putting more of our quality people and equipment, but not more, it is not about an increase in activity or an increase in numbers, but rather an increase in interest after a decade where we, where we probably had not been interested enough."
China is North Korea’s biggest provider of diplomatic support, one of its main trading partners and a key supplier of food and fuel to Pyongyang. The United States says Washington is working together with Russia, South Korea, and Japan to harness that influence and help China use its position to bring about change in North Korea.