Skip to main content

Mullen: China must do more to end North Korea's 'reckless behavior'

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
  • A "call for consultations" is not enough, the Joint Chiefs chairman says
  • China has more influence in North Korea than any other nation, Mullen says
  • Recent actions show North Korea is becoming more aggressive, he says

Washington (CNN) -- China's call for a return to talks is an inadequate response to the threat posed by North Korea, America's top military officer said Wednesday.

China reacted to the increased tensions after the artillery shelling of a South Korean island killed four people by urging a return to the six-party talks that include North Korea, South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

"Beijing's call for consultations will not be a substitute for action," said Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He called on China to take action against North Korea because it has the best leverage to stop the rogue nation's "reckless behavior."

U.S. firepower on display
Onboard the USS George Washington
South Korean president talks tough
WikiLeaks: China's N. Korea stance

"I think the stakes, in terms of stability in the region, are going up. So the potential for instability has increased. And I also believe that China's leadership has more influence in Pyongyang than any other country, period. There's no other country that's close," Mullen said during a forum at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank.

"It's going to come out of Beijing that this thing gets taken to a level where we can figure out a way to contain the reckless behavior and move ahead," he said.

Mullen spelled out the recent actions by North Korea that show the regime is becoming more bellicose.

"They killed 46 sailors a few months ago, they sank a ship, killed 46 sailors. They killed four Korean citizens the other day, two marines and two civilians. The ante is going up here," he said. "They revealed the other day, you know, a uranium enrichment plant, visibly to the world."

Mullen also said he is worried about some of the modernization efforts that China's military is undertaking.

"I am concerned about some of the high-end capabilities that they clearly are developing. I don't underestimate them in terms of capability," he said. "Some of the specific capabilities are very clearly focused on and pointed at the United States of America, and they are anti-access capabilities."

Mullen said he looks forward to being able to talk again with his Chinese counterpart about these issues. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will visit China early next year in an effort to improve the relationship between the two countries' militaries. Their military-to-military relationship has been strained recently over U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan.

Part of complete coverage on
Q&A: Why there is tension
The border between North and South Korea is one of the world's geo-political hotspots
Why China supports North Korea
Geopolitics, not economics, is behind Beijing's support of Pyongyang
Widespread destruction on island
CNN crew are the first western journalists to visit the island attacked by North Korea
The Koreas' maritime woes
The coastline of the Yellow Sea is an stage for conflict between North and South
N. Korea's military trump card
What military hardware does North Korea have -- and what can it do?
Seoul: Life under the gun
One of the world's most hi-tech cities still exists under the shadow the Cold War.
Look inside Korea's DMZ
What does life look like inside one of the world's most sensitive areas?
Life inside North Korea
It's one of the world's most secretive nations -- why does N. Korea have so little contact?