SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- A U.S. security expert said Thursday China is key to solving the North Korea problem and it could do more.
Joseph A. Bosco, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told UPI that amid growing international calls for the denuclearization of North Korea, progress cannot be made without China, the regime's closest ally and largest trading partner.
That is where international efforts to impose sanctions and pressure on the regime run into a cul-de-sac, said Bosco, who also spoke at the One Korea Forum in Seoul.
"It has never really done all it can do to pressure North Korea. It could cut off oil supplies but it refuses to do that. It objects to international sanctions, waters them down so they're not as biting as they could be toward North Korea," he said.
It is in Beijing's strategic interest to keep North Korea as a problem for the international community, Bosco said, adding, "It distracts the West from what China is doing. It allows China to act as a so-called responsible stakeholder and good-faith negotiator."
Beijing's stance toward the Korean peninsula has been to avoid tensions from heightening and maintain the absence of military clashes.
However, with the regime's missile provocations becoming more rampant and the fiery exchange of rhetoric between U.S. President Trump and Pyongyang escalating tensions, the possibility of war has not been ruled out on either side.
North Korea's state-run media on Thursday quoted a foreign ministry official who said Pyongyang doesn't want a war "but shall not hide from it."
"If the U.S. miscalculates our patience and lights the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force, which we have consistently strengthened," the statement said in English.
This comes after U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said last week, "If war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed."
Bosco said China needs to, at some point, "realize that the price it will pay for supporting the North is too high."
The East Asia expert said the West must demand that Beijing present Pyongyang with an offer it cannot refuse, either to give up its nuclear weapons and missile programs or forfeit power.
"We are often told Kim Jong Un may be dangerous and erratic, but he is not suicidal. Then, faced with a credible ultimatum from China along with security guarantees and economic aid, he would have to choose regime survival," Bosco said.
The One Korea Forum, organized by the Global Peace Foundation, continues Friday in Seoul.
The Global Peace Foundation is affiliated with the ultimate holding company that owns United Press International.