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Terrence Matsuo is the Washington correspondent for NK News. He previously supported research and reporting for several American and Japanese organizations.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper railed against China’s failure to fully enforce international sanctions against North Korea, calling it a “catalog of bad behavior” during a webinar on Tuesday.
Speaking at an online event hosted by the Institute of International and Strategic Studies, Esper expressed concerns that the Communist Party of China (CCP) “continues to engage in systematic rule breaking, coercion and other malign activities.”
“The [People’s Republic of China] continues to look the other way as North Korea violates U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Esper said, “thereby shielding Pyongyang from the international consequences of its pursuit of dangerous and illegal nuclear and missile programs.”
“This catalog of bad behavior accompanies a pattern of the CCP’s brazen disregard for international commitments,” Esper added. “We call on China’s leaders to abide by the international laws and norms that China and the Chinese people have benefited greatly from over the years.”
During the webinar, Esper said that he hopes to visit China before the end of the year, which would mark his first visit to the country as the top American defense official.
Esper also spoke about the Korean peninsula, stressing the United States’ role in working with allies to support a secure Indo-Pacific region.
“This includes working alongside South Korea to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
He added that he has made “no orders” to remove U.S. forces from South Korea — an increasing point of concern on the peninsula after Trump publicly expressed dire to withdraw troops in June.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Defense also emphasized that the U.S. is conducting a global reassessment of deployed troops to strengthen American capabilities abroad and adapt to ever-changing geopolitical conditions.
Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, spoke at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, stating, “The secretary’s goal is to remove some of the footprint of having forces forward deployed that allow us to bring them back, work on readiness issues, and be flexible and put us in more locations.
“The relationship and our commitment to the Republic of Korea has not changed,” Hoffman added.
Meanwhile, Esper’s remarks came a day after speaking with South Korean defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.
“The two leaders discussed the security environment on the Korean Peninsula and committed to continue supporting diplomatic efforts to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” a U.S. Department of Defense release stated.
A South Korean defense ministry official also told NK News that defense secretary Esper and defense minister Jeong agreed to “continue consulting with each other” over joint military exercises planned for later this year.
Edited by Kelly Kasulis
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper railed against China's failure to fully enforce international sanctions against North Korea, calling it a "catalog of bad behavior" during a webinar on Tuesday.
Speaking at an online event hosted by the Institute of International and Strategic Studies, Esper expressed concerns that the Communist Party of China (CCP) "continues to engage in systematic rule breaking, coercion and other malign activities."