WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is sending its No. 2 diplomat and three top Asia hands to China next week for talks on North Korea as Washington presses a reluctant Beijing to do more to rein in Pyongyang.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg will lead the delegation to Beijing for the talks, the State Department said Tuesday. "They will meet senior officials to continue consultations with the Chinese on regional security issues, including recent developments on the Korean peninsula," said a statement.
Earlier Tuesday, Steinberg gave a talk to a Washington think tank in which he urged China to press North Korea harder on halting provocative acts. His comments were the latest in a string of appeals from U.S. officials for China to use its influence with North Korea to reduce tensions.
The trip follows a State Department meeting on Monday between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea in which they called on the North to stop "belligerent" behavior, citing a deadly artillery attack last month. They also rejected China's call for immediate talks with North Korea, saying the North first needed to prove its commitment to peace and return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
Steinberg will be accompanied to China by the top Asia official at the National Security Council, Jeffrey Bader, the top U.S. diplomat for east Asia and the Pacific, Kurt Campbell, and the U.S. special envoy for six-party talks, Sung Kim.
After meeting with the Chinese in Beijing, Steinberg and Bader will return to Washington on Dec. 17. Campbell will travel to Tokyo for talks with Japanese officials and Kim will see South Korean officials in Seoul.