SAN FRANCISCO, April 20, (THEWILL) – China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States.
A day after North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister said Pyongyang would test missiles weekly and use nuclear weapons if threatened, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “gravely concerned” about North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile activities.
In the same press conference, spokesman Lu Kang praised recent U.S. statements on the North Korean issue.
“American officials did make some positive and constructive remarks such as using whatever peaceful means possible to resolve the (Korean) Peninsula nuclear issue. This represents a general direction that we believe is correct and should be adhered to,” Lu said.
That direction was not evident from North Korean leadership, as state-run TV highlighted a propaganda video showing missile strikes leaving the U.S. in flames.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol ratcheted up the rhetoric in an interview with the BBC.
“If the United States is reckless enough to use military means, it would mean from that very day an all-out war,” Han said.
Statements of that vein do not help the situation, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.
“China firmly opposes any words or actions that would escalate rivalry and tension,” Lu said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been pressing the Asian giant to rein in North Korea, suggesting that doing so could ease US-China relations over trade and other issues.
Experts point out that China also wants to prevent North Korea from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power and certainly wants to prevent a war on its southern border that could send millions of refugees flooding into China and potentially risk bringing a U.S. military presence to China’s borders.
Earlier this year, the Chinese authorities called on the U.S. and North Korea to give up something to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S., along with South Korea, should suspend annual military exercises that antagonize North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its nuclear program, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in early March.
Meanwhile, a U.S. defence official has revealed that Chinese air force land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers were put “on high alert” on Wednesday as the U.S. sees evidence that the Chinese military is preparing to respond to a potential situation in North Korea,
The official said the U.S. has also seen an extraordinary number of Chinese military aircraft being brought up to full readiness through intensified maintenance.
These recent steps by the Chinese are assessed as part of an effort to “reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency,” the official said.
Such a contingency could include the risk of an armed conflict breaking out as tensions on the peninsula have increased in the wake of multiple North Korean missile tests.
Given the close economic links between North Korea and China, U.S. military officials have said that Beijing is critical to solving the North Korean situation, with President Donald Trump recently commending Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese efforts to curb Pyongyang’s activities.