SEOUL, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. and South Korean military leaders vowed a strong response to future North Korean threats as the U.S. military chief criticized China for not intervening.
Discussions about conducting future combined military exercises as a response to provocations from Pyongyang came Wednesday in Seoul after South Korean leaders received reports of artillery fire possibly from North Korea, The New York Times reported.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, roundly criticized China for not condemning North Korea's artillery attack on a South Korean island in late November in which two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed.
Pressure has increased on China, one of North Korea's few remaining allies, to do more to rein in North Korea's military aggression. The provocative behavior comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong Il apparently is trying to establish the credentials of his youngest son and successor-apparent Kim Jong Un, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported..
China criticized a U.S.-South Korea military exercise in the Yellow Sea instead of North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island.
"China has enormous influence over the North, and therefore they have a unique responsibility," Mullen said during a news briefing. "Now is the time for Beijing to step up to that responsibility and guide the North, and indeed the whole region, to a better future."
In a joint statement, Mullen and Gen. Han Min-koo, chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs, said the drills will be "designed to effectively deter North Korean aggression and strengthen the joint capabilities to respond."
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin has said airstrikes against North Korea would be an option under his country's new rules of engagement. Kim's predecessor was criticized then dismissed over what was seen as a weak response to the attack on Yeonpyeong.