Adm. Mike Mullen: China's Leadership Is 'Absolutely Critical' In North Korea

VIDEO: The Obama administration tries to cool tensions after North Korea?s attack.

The White House continued to put pressure on China today to help stabilize relations between North and South Korea after yesterday's artillery attack, the heaviest attack by North Korea on the South since the Korean War.

Today, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of destabilization in East Asia if North Korea acquires nuclear weapons or continues to provoke its neighbors. He said that the United States is working with the rest of South Korea's allies to ease tension between the two countries.

Mullen said China will play a pivotal role in ensuring that North Korea does not escalate its actions.

"The one country that has influence in Pyongyang is China, and so their leadership is absolutely critical," Mullen said in an appearance with his wife, Deborah, on "The View."

China is North Korea's only ally and main economic partner. Officials from the State Department said that China has a duty to tell Pyongyang that deliberate acts "specifically intended to inflame tensions in the region" are not acceptable.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to discuss the attack by telephone with China's foreign minister.

Obama Condemns Attack

In an exclusive interview with Barbara Walters Tuesday, President Obama called on China to stand firm and "make clear to North Korea that there are a set of international rules that they need to abide by."

Obama reiterated the country's support of South Korea, calling the nation "a cornerstone of U.S. security in the Pacific region."

Watch more of Barbara Walters' interview with the Obamas tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer" and Friday, Nov. 26 at 10 p.m. ET on "A Barbara Walters Special: A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama"

Attack Linked to Succession of North's Leadership

U.S. officials believe the artillery attack on the island of Yeonpyeong that set homes on fire and killed at least two South Korean marines and civilians was an isolated incident. The Obama administration linked it to the recent succession of power in North Korea from Kim Jong Il to his son, Kim Jong Un.

A senior administration official told ABC News that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un visited the North Korean part of the island just days before the attack.

Despite there being no information that North Korea will continue an extended military operation against South Korea, Adm. Mullen said the United States and the rest of South Korea's allies are still on alert.

"I think worrying is something we ought to stay with," Mullen said." "It's a worrisome leadership in North Korea. He [Kim Jong Il] is a very unpredictable guy, a very dangerous guy."

North Korea's Nuclear Arsenal

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman also warned of destabilization if North Korea continues to try to build a nuclear arsenal. Just days before the attack, North Korean revealed an upgraded and strengthened uranium enrichment plant to western scientists.

"The revelation last week of this uranium enrichment facility is a big deal. It actually was described as a very sophisticated modern facility," Mullen said. "If he [Kim Jong Il] continues on that path, him with nuclear weapons or his son is a very dangerous outcome for the long term and it will continue to destabilize a really important part of the world," Mullen said.

Today Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Il toured a university and food factory, making no comment about the artillery attack.

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