A top Chinese foreign policy official met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il today as Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen dialed up pressure on China to use its influence to reign in the North Korean regime.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Kim discussed ways to strengthen their bilateral relations, but gave no details involving discussions about the regime's recent artillery attack.
However, China's Xinhua news agency said "the two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula after candid and in-depth talks," Reuters reported.
China has been facing mounting international pressure to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula.
"We must recognize there is no normal anymore," Mullen said. "What once was routine is anything but. And what once was unusual is becoming all too routine."
The top U.S. military chief made his comments during a brief stop in Tokyo, part of an Asia trip aimed at strengthening trilateral ties with South Korea and Japan.
A North Korean artillery attack on South Korean island Yongpyong killed 4 people last month.
North Korea or DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) relies on China for economic assistance and diplomatic support.
China fought on the North Korean side during the 1950-53 Korean War.
China's Influence on North Korea
As its only ally in the region, Mullen said China has the ability to "lead and guide North Korea into a better future."
"There's no country in the world with more influence in Pyongyang than China," he said. "That's part of responsible leadership."
Mullen also pressed for an increase in multilateral military training exercises to counter North Korean aggression.
He welcomed South Korea's recent participation in the joint U.S.-Japan exercise, and invited Japan to take part in U.S.-South Korean drills.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and South Korean Foreign minister Kim Sung-hwan on the importance of cooperation in the region.
Despite escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, Mullen refused to address the potential for an all out war with North Korea, calling it "calamitous."
Mullen also hinted at efforts to establish military-to-military ties between Beijing and Washington.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to visit China next month while Mullen plans to meet his Chinese counterpart next year in hopes of improving security in the region.
Next week, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson plans a visit to North Korea in an effort to calm rising tensions.
"I am increasingly concerned with the recent actions by the North Koreans, which have raised tensions and are contributing to instability on the Korean peninsula," Richardson said in a statement to the Associated Press. "If I can contribute to the easing of tension on the peninsula, the trip will be well worth it."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.