China warns against force over N.Korea
Military force cannot resolve tension over North Korea, China says, while an influential Chinese newspaper has urged the North to halt its nuclear program in exchange for Chinese protection.
With a US aircraft carrier group steaming to the area and tension rising, South Korea says it believes the US will consult it before any pre-emptive strike against the North.
Fears have been growing that the reclusive North could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of UN sanctions and stark warnings from the US that a policy of patience was over.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally and benefactor, which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the denuclearisation of the peninsula.
“Military force cannot resolve the issue,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.
“Amid challenge there is opportunity. Amid tensions we will also find a kind of opportunity to return to talks.”
While US President Donald Trump has put North Korea on notice he would not tolerate any provocation, US officials have said his administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.
Trump has diverted the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group towards the Korean Peninsula to deter North Korea from conducting another nuclear test or launching more missiles to coincide with important events and anniversaries.
Speculation about US military action grew after the US Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack.
Wang warned that history would hold any instigator to account.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told parliament in Seoul he believed Washington would consult Seoul if it was considering a pre-emptive strike.
A Washington-based think tank that monitors North Korea, 38 North, said satellite images on Wednesday showed activity around the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site indicated it was ready for a new test.
South Korean officials said there were no new signs to indicate a test was more likely, although they also said the North appeared ready to conduct a test at any time.
An influential state-backed Chinese newspaper said the best option for North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, was to give up its nuclear program, and China would protect it if it did.
“As soon as North Korea complies with China’s declared advice and suspends nuclear activities … China will actively work to protect the security of a denuclearised North Korean nation and regime,” an editorial in the Global Times said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe underscored fears about threats from North Korea, telling parliament in Tokyo that Pyongyang could have the capacity to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve gas.
Scores of foreign journalists gathered in Pyongyang for North Korea’s biggest national day, the “Day of the Sun”, were taken to what officials billed as a “big and important event” early on Thursday.
It turned out to be the opening of a new street in the centre of the capital, attended by leader Kim.
North Korea marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung on Saturday.