WASHINGTON Any effort to curb North Korea's weapons programme will need to involve China, a senior U.S. military official said on Tuesday, just days after President Donald Trump said Washington might deal with Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs on its own if need be.
On Sunday, Trump said in an interview with the Financial Times, that China has great influence over North Korea and that "China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone."
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are meeting in Florida on Thursday and Friday.
On Tuesday, General John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said it was difficult to see a solution to North Korea that did not involve China.
"Any solution to the North Korean problem has to involve China," Hyten said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"I am a military officer, my job is to provide military options to the president ... but I look at it from a strategic perspective and I can't see a solution that doesn't involve China," Hyten said.
It is not clear whether Trump's comments will move China, which has taken steps to increase economic pressure on Pyongyang but has long been unwilling to do anything that may destabilise the North and send millions of refugees across the border into China.
It is also unclear what the United States might do on its own to deflect North Korea from the expansion of its nuclear capabilities and from the development of missiles with ever-longer ranges and the capacity to deliver atomic warheads.
North Korea has been testing rocket engines and heat-shields for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) while developing technology to guide a missile after re-entry into the atmosphere following a liftoff.
Once fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental United States.
The reclusive state has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches in defiance of United Nations resolutions.
Trump's national security aides have completed a review of U.S. options to try to curb North Korea's nuclear and missile programs that includes economic and military measures but leans more toward sanctions and increased pressure on Beijing to rein in its reclusive neighbour.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali)