US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday that he discussed the possibility of North Korean nuclear or missile tests with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi during a call focused on regional security issues and nonproliferation.
Sullivan told a White House briefing that US intelligence shows North Korea could be preparing for such a test before, during or after President Joe Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan starting this week.
“I spoke with my Chinese counterpart this morning, and covered this issue of the DPRK,” Sullivan said of the call with Yang.
The United States was prepared to make short- and long-term adjustments to its military posture to ensure defence and deterrence to its allies in the region, Sullivan said.
Any such test by North Korea would underscore the lack of progress in denuclearisation talks, and could overshadow the Biden administration’s broader focus during his Asia visit on trade and rallying allies in the face of growing competition with China.
The United States has pushed for more United Nations sanctions on North Korea, but China and Russia have signalled opposition.
Sullivan did not give further details on the call, but the White House said earlier in a statement that he and Yang had discussed Russia’s war against Ukraine and “specific issues in US-China relations”.
Sullivan and Yang last met in Rome in March, ahead of Biden’s call that month with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, during which the US president warned Xi of consequences should Beijing offer material support for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
China has refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and has criticized sweeping Western sanctions on Russia, but senior US officials say they have not detected overt Chinese military and economic support for Russia.
The United States, India, Australia and Japan agreed in March that what is happening to Ukraine should not be allowed to happen in the Indo-Pacific, an oblique reference to the democratic island of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.
“If the US side persists in playing the ‘Taiwan card’ and goes further down the wrong path, it will surely put the situation in serious jeopardy,” Xinhua cited Yang as telling Sullivan.
Yang added that China would take “firm actions” to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests, Xinhua said.