Corker: China must recognize threat of North Korea

China is making a mistake by not taking North Korean nuclear threats seriously, according to Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) who published an op-ed on the subject in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, recently visited Northeast Asia and expressed surprise at the reaction in China to the recent nuclear threats made by North Korea. While U.S. allies Japan and South Korea were as concerned as the U.S. by North Korea's growing nuclear capabilities, China seemed to view the threats as nothing more than a distraction.

"Chinese officials are urging all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that could escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula," Corker said. "Yet one I met with went so far as to suggest that the U.S. routinely overstates the North Korean threat. This particular Chinese official's advice on dealing with North Korea: The U.S. should 'just relax.' That precise sentiment may not be shared by all Chinese officials, but it is emblematic of Beijing's overall laissez-faire approach to North Korea."

Corker said Beijing's reluctance to use its influence and economic leverage over Pyongyang, a nominal ally, could present China with a significant security threat.

While former senior Obama administration officials have suggested in recent weeks that China is starting to shift its stance on North Korea, Corker said there is no tangible evidence that China has tried to change North Korea's behavior.

Corker suggests the U.S. get serious with China and develop a strategy to persuade China that support for North Korea will be costly in the long run.

"The time is past due for Washington and Beijing to engage in an honest and frank dialogue on the future of the Korean peninsula," Corker said. "The status quo is no longer an option."