US urges more China pressure on NKorea nuke program

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The outgoing top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said Thursday that China should take more actions to send an unambiguous signal to North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile programs.

China recently said it is suspending coal imports from North Korea, an important source of its foreign revenue.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said that was in line with U.N. sanctions, but he hoped Beijing was also swayed by a recent North Korean missile test and the assassination of the North Korean leader's exiled half brother, who was under Chinese protection during the years he lived in Macau.

"The world should expect a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to adhere to the letter and the spirit of a resolution as important as this," Russel told The Associated Press.

"I hope we see a lot more Chinese actions, whether they are tied to the Security Council resolution or whether they are unilateral that send an unambiguous stop sign to the North Korean leaders," he said, noting that China accounts for up to 90 percent of North Korea's external economic activity.

Russel said that he was stepping down as assistant secretary March 8 to spend one year as diplomat-in-residence at the Asia Society Policy Institute, a think tank led by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

He said he wasn't pushed out by the Trump administration and will remain a State Department employee. Russel has held the position for 3 ½ years. Prior to that he was President Barack Obama's top Asia adviser at the White House. His successor has not been named.

Also Thursday, the State Department said that Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield will leave her position as top diplomat for Africa on March 10. She has accepted a State Department detail as a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

She and Russel are final holdovers as assistant secretaries running the department's regional bureaus after President Donald Trump took office nearly six weeks ago. All those positions will be run by acting assistant secretaries until their replacements are nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

No nominations have been made yet.

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