- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain suggested Tuesday that he’ll push the Trump administration to take a harder line toward China over North Korea’s nuclear provocations when senators head to the White House Wednesday for an unusual group briefing on Pyongyang’s activities.

“For years, the United States has looked at China, North Korea’s long term patron and soul strategic ally to bring the regime to the negotiating table and achieve progress toward a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” Mr. McCain said as the committee convened a hearing on the matter on Capitol Hill.

“But China has repeatedly refused to exercise that influence,” the Arizona Republican said, adding that Beijing has instead chosen to exert muscle against South Korea, Washington’s ally on the peninsula where some 30,000 U.S. troops have been stationed since the 1950s.

Most recently, in response to Washington’s deployment this year of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense — or THAAD — anti-ballistic missile system to South Korea, the Chinese government has “waged a campaign of economic retaliation that “has inflicted real damage” on South Korea, Mr. McCain claimed.

“China has chosen to bully South Korea for exercising its sovereign right to defend itself from the escalating North Korean threat,” he said. “The twisted reality is that China is doing all of this to stop the deployment of a missile defense system, which is only necessary because China has aided and abetted North Korea for decades.”

The senator added that he welcomes the Trump administration’s continuation of an Obama administration-era policy of reaching out to China on the issue of North Korea.

“But, as these discussions continue, the United States should be clear that while we earnestly seek China’s cooperation on North Korea, we do not seek such cooperation at the expense of our vital interests,” he said.

“We must not and will not bargain over our alliances with Japan and South Korea,” Mr. McCain said.

His comments came as North Korea conducted a what Reuters described as a major live-fire exercise Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the foundation of its military, just as a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea as a fresh show of force by Washington amid growing international concern over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

In an unusual twist this week, the Trump administration has said its top cabinet official on national security and foreign policy will hold a rare briefing Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea.

All 100 senators have been asked to attend the event, which administration officials have said will be hosted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.

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