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China asked to pressure N. Korea more

President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, as Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, enters before their meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 20, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg
President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China shakes hands with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, as Sen. John Kerry, D-MA, enters before their meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on January 20, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Washington's warning to redeploy its forces in Asia convinced China to put more pressure on North Korea, a source told The New York Times.

U.S. President Barack Obama warned Chinese President Hu Jintao during Hu's visit to Washington that if Beijing did not take a harder approach toward Pyongyang, the United States would bring back its forces in Asia to check any likely North Korean strike on American soil, the official was quoted as saying. The warning, reportedly first made by Obama in a telephone call to Hu, was given again to Hu Tuesday during a private White House dinner.

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This led to the Thursday's announcement by South Korea that it had agreed to hold defense talks with the North, the report said. It would be the first such dialogue since the deadly North Korean shelling of a South Korean island in November, leading to further deterioration of tensions on the Korea Peninsula.

The Times noted China still has not condemned the sinking of a South Korean war ship last May, which has been blamed on North Korea. During his Washington visit, Hu joined in expressing concern over a new North Korean uranium-enrichment plant but there was no indication China would take any action against the North, the report said.

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Regardless, the Times said Obama's persuasion, supported by his Cabinet members, nudged China closer to the United States on the North Korean issue. The report said Obama told Hu unless China acted, the United States' long-term measures would include redeploying of forces, changing its defense posture or beefing up military exercises in Northeast Asia, the official told the Times.

"It was not meant to suggest pre-emption, but we were projecting that a North Korea that becomes a national security threat is going to get a response," said the official. "That was attention-getting for the Chinese."

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