The clearest example of Chinese influence on Pyongyang was the latest report by U.S. intelligence agencies, indicating that two road-mobile Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles that had been readied for test launch on North Korea’s east coast were removed recently.
The mobile missiles, along with several other short-range mobile missiles, were driven to storage facilities, said officials familiar with the report.
The stand-down of the missiles is one sign that North Korea is dialing back its hard-line position toward the United States in recent weeks, a posture that included an unprecedented threat to attack American territory with nuclear-tipped missiles.
U.S. pressure was delivered to the Chinese during meetings with Chinese official Wu Daiwei in Washington and in meetings in Beijing between Secretary of StateJohn F. Kerry and senior Chinese officials.
Mr. Kerry brought a carrot that Beijing apparently found hard to resist. He offered to cancel the planned deployment of 14 additional ground-based interceptors at U.S. missile defense bases in Alaska and California if China did more to stifle North Korean bellicosity. The deployments were announced recently in response to North Korean missile threats.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, perhaps representing a policy stick to Mr. Kerry’s carrot, also pressed Chinese military leaders during private meetings. His message: Rein in the North Koreans or risk another outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula.
Gen. Dempsey told reporters at the conclusion of his three-day visit to Beijing on April 24 that Chinese leaders were “as concerned as we are with North Korea’s march toward nuclearization and ballistic-missile technology.”
“And they have given us an assurance that they are working on it, as we are,” Gen. Dempsey said.
The missile storage has helped reduce tensions partly, but a military provocation by the North has not been ruled out, U.S. officials said.
One major concern is that South Korea will trigger a war in response to a promised counterattack against any North Korean military aggression, a position made clear by South Korean President Park Geun-hye during her visit to the United States this week.
Ms. Park said South Korean military forces will not sit by as they did in 2010 after attacks by the North against a ship and border island.
“Yes, we will make them pay,” she told CBS News.
An indication that the Chinese are seeking credit for lowering tensions surfaced Tuesday during one of the tightly scripted press briefings held regularly at the Chinese Foreign Ministry.