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(LEAD) Tillerson: U.S. cannot accept China's 'empty promises' over N. Korea

All Headlines 01:37 January 12, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with more quotes)
By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state strongly criticized China on Wednesday for failing to put enough pressure on North Korea, saying the U.S. can no longer accept Beijing's "empty promises."

The remark, made by Rex Tillerson during his Senate confirmation hearing, is in line with Trump's repeated criticism of China for not helping the U.S. with the North, and suggests the incoming administration intends to ramp up pressure on Beijing.

"We cannot continue to accept empty promises like the ones China has made to pressure North Korea to reform, only to shy away from enforcement. Looking the other way when trust is broken only encourages more bad behavior. And it must end," Tillerson planned to say in a statement.

Tillerson also said China "has not been a reliable partner in using its full influence to curb" the North.

He also said that "adversaries like Iran and North Korea pose grave threats to the world."

It was the first time Tillerson has publicly mentioned North Korea since his nomination last month.

(LEAD) Tillerson: U.S. cannot accept China's 'empty promises' over N. Korea - 1

Trump has expressed deeply negative views of China, repeatedly cricitizing it for not using its influence over North Korea to rein in the recalcitrant neighbor while taking "out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade."

He even raised questions why the U.S. should stick to the "one-China" policy of diplomatically recognizing only Beijing, not Taiwan, when China is uncooperative over the North and engages in unfair trade practices.

Tillerson was also very critical of China

"China's island-building in the South China Sea is an illegal taking of disputed areas without regard for international norms. China's economic and trade practices have not always followed its commitments to global agreements," he said. "It steals our intellectual property, and is aggressive and expansionist in the digital realm."

China is North Korea's last-remaining major ally and a key provider of food and fuel supplies. But it has been reluctant to use its influence over Pyongyang for fears that pushing the regime too hard could result in instability in the North and hurt Chinese national interests.

Beijing often increased pressure on the North in the past, especially when Pyongyang defied international appeals and carried out nuclear and missile tests and other provocative acts, but it never went as far as to cause real pain to the North.

Tillerson said the U.S. should "hold our allies accountable to commitments they make," a remark that can be seen as linked to Trump's long-running call for allies to pay more for American troops stationed in those countries to help defend them.

"We cannot look the other way at allies who do not meet their obligations. This is an injustice not only to us, but to longstanding friends who honor their promises and bolster our own national security, such as Israel," Tillerson said.

Trump nominated Tillerson last month despite concern that the Exxon Mobile CEO is too close to Russia.

Tillerson, who joined Exxon straight from college as a production engineer in 1975 and rose to its helm in 2006, has concluded major deals with the Russian state-run corporation Rosneft and developed a personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He received Russia's "Order of Friendship" from Putin in 2013.

Thursday's hearing was expected to focus on his relations with Russia amid persisting allegations that Moscow was behind a series of hacking attacks accused of interfering with the U.S. presidential election in an effort to help Trump win the vote.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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