* Text informed at the Pacific Command
U.S. urges strong trilateral alliance with Seoul and Tokyo
Dec. 8, 2010
SEOUL (Reuters) – The top U.S. military official said Tokyo, Seoul and Washington must build an even stronger alliance in the face of North Korean aggression, while calling on Beijing to show leadership by reining in its ally Pyongyang.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew into Seoul on Wednesday where he also agreed with his South Korean counterpart to stage more joint military drills to deter North Korea from attacking again.
"It is my hope that, to the degree possible, these will include participation by your neighbors and partners, in particular the Japanese," he said.
"The goal clearly is to have a deterrent effect, so that all-out war never occurs," he told reporters, without providing details about future joint drills.
While they are allies, relations between Seoul and Tokyo have a legacy of bitterness stemming from Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea and a dispute over islands.
Mullen's trip to South Korea and Japan follows talks in Washington on Monday between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts. All three voiced grave concerns over the North Korean attacks and called on China to use its influence to improve Pyongyang's behavior.
On Tuesday, Beijing hit back at the United States and its Asian allies for their refusal to talk to North Korea, saying dialogue was the only way to calm escalating tension on the divided Korean peninsula.
But Mullen said the Chinese must do more.
"They are a world leader and leaders must lead -- particularly to prevent crises and to prevent the kinds of destabilizing activities that are very evident coming out of the leadership in Pyongyang," he said.
"China has unique influence. Therefore, they bear unique responsibility," Mullen told a news conference in Seoul.
He said the U.S. and South Korean militaries would avoid taking steps that would escalate into a conflict on the peninsula.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former U.S. special envoy to North Korea, will travel to Pyongyang next week. He said he hoped to help matters but was going as a private citizen and not carrying any U.S. government message.
"I am not carrying any messages, but I want to be helpful during this volatile period," Richardson said in a statement. "If I can contribute to the easing of tension on the peninsula, the trip will be well worth it."
The State Department also said Richardson was making a private visit but that, as usual, he was expected to talk to U.S. officials before he left and when he returned.
The Washington Post reported Richardson had been invited by top North Korean officials involved in the nuclear program.
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(* Text thankfully informed by Rick Rozoff on Dec. 9, 2010)
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