- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Pentagon is reaching out to the Chinese military to get its cooperation in managing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Pentagon officials said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by telephone with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Chang Wanquan, on Tuesday evening, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will pay a rare visit to China later this month, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

“The secretary emphasized the growing threat to the U.S. and our allies posed by North Korea’s aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and expressed to Gen. Chang the importance of sustained U.S.-China dialogue and cooperation on these issues,” Mr. Little said.

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Over the past few weeks, since U.S. and South Korean forces began annual joint military exercises and the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang for its illegal nuclear test in February, North Korea’s usually bellicose rhetoric has been jacked up to fever pitch, with threats to retaliate against any U.S. attack with nuclear strikes on American cities.

Mr. Hagel’s call came on the heels of several deployments of U.S. air and naval power in and around South Korea — including nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers and an anti-ballistic-missile destroyer, the USS McCain.

Mr. Hagel invited Gen. Chang to visit Washington later this year and confirmed details of Gen. Dempsey’s trip, Mr. Little said.

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Although North Korea has conducted three underground nuclear tests since 2006, it is unclear how successful they were, and analysts differ on their estimates of the progress Pyongyang has made toward miniaturizing a nuclear weapon so it can fit in a missile warhead.