US frustrated over China's lack of help

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The top US military officer expressed frustration yesterday with what he called China's unwillingness to rein in North Korea, calling again on Beijing to use its unique leverage to push the North to stop provocations.

Admiral Mike Mullen emphasised the US commitment to South Korea's defence, saying their alliance remained unquestioned.

He denounced North Korea's aggression, including an artillery attack last month that killed four South Koreans, as "belligerent, reckless behaviour". His remarks reflect a two-pronged approach by South Korea, the US and Japan: they are threatening the North with quick and merciless retaliation if it attacks again and they are seeking a diplomatic way out, with China's help.

Beijing is the North's only major ally and an important source of aid.