There can be no winners in a war between the US and North Korea over nuclear weapons and missile programmes, a Chinese minister has said. Foreign minister Wang Yi pledged support for dialogue between the sides and urged them to take a flexible approach.
It is the latest attempt to cool tensions by North Korea’s most important ally and key provider of food and fuel aid. Any fighting on the Korean Peninsula is likely to draw in China, which has repeatedly expressed concerns about a wave of refugees and the possible presence of US and South Korean troops on its border.
“Once a war really happens, the result will be nothing but multiple loss. No one can become a winner,” Mr Wang said at a news conference with French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
“Therefore, we call upon all the parties, no matter verbally or in action, to stop provoking and threatening each other and not to allow the situation to become irretrievable and out of control,” he said.
Mr Wang added: “As long as dialogue takes place, it can be official or unofficial, through one channel or dual channels, bilateral or multilateral. China is willing to give support to all of them.”
Last month, he urged North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapon and missile tests in exchange for South Korea and the US putting their war games on hold, reviving a proposal first raised by Pyongyang. Washington swiftly dismissed the idea, but observers say administration officials may be more amenable to renewed dialogue with the North.
Despite historic ties as neighbouring communist states, China has grown increasingly frustrated with the refusal of Kim Jong Un’s regime to heed its admonitions.
In February, China cut off imports of North Korean coal that provide Pyongyang with a crucial source of foreign currency. From Monday, the Chinese flag carrier Air China will suspend flights from Beijing to Pyongyang, state broadcaster CCTV said. Air China and North Korea’s Air Koryo are the only two airlines serving that route.
Earlier, North Korea’s vice minister Han Song Ryol said his country will keep building up its nuclear arsenal in “quality and quantity”.
He said Pyongyang is ready to go to war if that is what US president Donald Trump wants.
Chinese experts said they see little immediate possibility of hostilities breaking out, but warned that Beijing will respond harshly to any further North Korean nuclear tests.
Director of Jilin University’s Institute of Northeast Asian Studies Guo Rui said Mr Trump’s domestic troubles should prevent him taking such action, while North Korea does not appear to be on a war footing.
Another nuclear test would invite tougher measures from Beijing, Mr Guo said.
Pang Zhongying, of the School of International Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University, agreed that military action was unlikely but said another North Korean nuclear test would mark “the crossing of a red line” that China was prepared to respond to.