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The United States is pressuring China's new President Xi Jinping to crack down on the regime in North Korea or face an increased US military presence in the region, The New York Times reported late Friday.
Citing unnamed administration officials, the newspaper said the recent US exchanges with China included a phone call from President Barack Obama to Xi.
US officials briefed the Chinese in detail about US plans to upgrade missile defenses and other steps to deter the threats made by North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-un, the report said.
China has not protested publicly or privately as the United States has deployed ships and warplanes to the Korean Peninsula, the paper noted.
That silence attests to both Beijing's mounting frustration with North Korea and the recognition that its reflexive support for Pyongyang could strain its ties with Washington, the report said.
"The timing of this is important," The Times quoted US national security adviser Tom Donilon as saying in an interview. "It will be an important early exercise between the United States and China, early in the term of Xi Jinping and early in the second term of President Obama."
According to the paper, in the coming weeks, the White House will send a stream of senior officials to China to press its case, starting with Secretary of State John Kerry, who will travel to Beijing next Saturday.
In the short run, the report said, the administration wants the Chinese to be rigorous in customs inspections to interdict the flow of banned goods to North Korea.
But in the long run, it wants China to persuade Kim to cease his provocations and agree to negotiations on giving up his nuclear program, The Times said.