Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Wednesday criticized China, saying the country is not helping ease tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
“Frankly, over the years we’ve seen nothing from China,” he said on MSNBC. “They’ve propped up North Korea. They could shut down their economy in a week or two if they wanted to.”
McCain stressed that China must realize that the U.S. cannot accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.
“I think we have to make it clear to China that there will be penalties in our relationship with China unless they do the right thing,” he said, adding, “China has got to understand that the United States of America cannot live with a situation where North Korea has this kind of capabilities.”
McCain's comments mark the second time in recent weeks that he has called on China to take action to stop North Korea's ongoing nuclear tests.
Last month, McCain referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un as a “crazy fat kid”, adding that “China is the one, the only one, that can control” him.
His comments on Wednesday came hours before the entire Senate participated in a briefing at the White House on North Korea.
Following the briefing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a statement in which they stressed that the U.S. seeks the peaceful denuclearization of North Korea, but is also prepared to defend itself and its allies.
In a move which demonstrated how seriously it takes the North Korean threat, the U.S. military on Tuesday started moving parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile defense system into a planned deployment site in South Korea.
The United States and South Korea agreed last year to deploy THAAD in response to the threat of missile launches by North Korea.
North Korea's military has in the past threatened a "physical response" if the United States and South Korea deploy the advanced missile defense system to the Korean peninsula.