WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain said Sunday it was time to discuss "regime change" in North Korea, but the former Navy combat pilot didn't say how he advocates changing the government in the repressive and secretive dictatorship.
McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was not suggesting military action against the North. He said the Chinese, the North's closest ally, should rein in its neighbor, and he accused Beijing of failing to play a responsible role in either the Korean peninsula, where tensions are high because of a recent attack by the North, or the world stage.
"The key to this, obviously, is China," McCain said on "State of the Union" on CNN. "And, unfortunately, China is not behaving as a responsible world power. It cannot be in China's long-term interest to see a renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula."
The Arizona Republican added: "They could bring the North Korean economy to its knees if they wanted to. And I cannot believe that the Chinese should, in a mature fashion, not find it in their interest to restrain North Korea. So far, they are not."
China on Sunday proposed an emergency meeting of the six nations that have tried to engage North Korea in talks about its nuclear program. At the same time, U.S. and South Korea began naval war games in spite of North Korea's protests.
Chinese state councilor Dai Bingguo made a last-minute visit to Seoul, the South Korean capital, to confer with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Dai, and State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. would continue to consult with China and others "on a future course." He added that the North "needs to cease its provocative behavior. That is a critical first step."