Tensions on the Korean Peninsula will be a key topic for US President Barack Obama's upcoming talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the White House said Monday.
Obama is scheduled to visit China later this week for a summit with Xi and a summit of the Group of 20 nations.
The trip comes after the North ratcheted up tensions with a successful submarine-launched ballistic missile test that demonstrated the communist nation is making fast progress in its SLBM development.
The Obama-Xi summit, set for Sept. 3, also comes as the US and China are at odds over maritime disputes in the South China Sea and the US plan to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.
"We'll be able to review the progress we've made on the global economy, on climate change, our shared efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons through the Iran deal, our shared concerns about the situation on the Korean Peninsula," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, at a White House briefing.
"Of course, we'll also be addressing differences, as we always do with China, whether it relates to cyber issues, some of the economic practices that we have raised concerns about, some of the tensions around maritime issues in the South China Sea, and of course, our long-standing differences on human rights, as well," he said.
Rhodes did not say whether the THAAD issue will be on the agenda, but Xi is expected to raise the issue.
China has strongly protested the decision by Washington and Seoul to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense unit in South Korea, saying the system, especially the powerful "X-band" radar, could be used against it, despite repeated US assurances the system is purely defensive and designed only to cope with North Korean threats.
The issue has raised concern that China might be refusing to render full-scale cooperation for international efforts to increase pressure on Pyongyang, including implementing the latest UN Security Council sanctions resolution, in protest of the THAAD deployment decision.
"Our point to China has been: this in no way is directed at China. It's directed at the threat from North Korea," Rhodes said of THAAD. "And so long as North Korea is developing ballistic missile capabilities and moving forward with its nuclear program, we have an obligation, a responsibility, for our own security and the security of our allies in Japan and the Republic of Korea to take steps to counter that threat."
Noting that China has expressed concerns about THAAD, Rhodes stressed that the most important thing is to continue to apply pressure on the North Koreans to change course.
"Absent that taking place, we are not going to skirt our responsibility to defend ourselves and our allies," he said. (Yonhap)