The United States is arguing that a retaliatory attack on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime could discourage North Korea from employing its own chemical arsenal in regional conflicts, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
Washington has been trying to persuade China to back a U.S. plan to carry out limited missile strikes against the Syrian military as punishment for its widely assumed large-scale Aug. 21 sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians just outside of Damascus.
A punishing military assault on the Assad regime will strengthen the global norm against the use of chemical weapons and send an important message to other countries in possession of such arms, U.S. Undersecretary for Defense Policy James Miller said during trip to Beijing.
"I emphasized the massive chemical weapons arsenal that North Korea has and that we didn't want to live in a world in which North Korea felt that the threshold for chemical weapons usage had been lowered," Miller told journalists in describing his Monday meeting with Wang Guanzhong, the People's Liberation Army's deputy chief of staff.
It is very much to China's benefit that there is a "strong response to Assad's clear and massive use of chemical weapons," Miller said he told the Chinese military official.
The Chinese government is working with Russia to impede any U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria.
North Korea is believed to hold a substantial chemical arsenal, measuring between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tons of deadly poisons such as sarin nerve agent, mustard gas, hydrogen cyanide and phosgene, according to previous reports. Pyongyang has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the production, possession and usage of chemical arms.