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China urges North Korea and US to step back from brink of war

The Guardian – Justin McCurry/Tokyo, Tom Phillips/Beijing & Julian Borger/Washington – Friday 14 April 2017

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Photo: Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said ‘the one espouses harshest rhetoric or raises a bigger fist’ would not win.
Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi says the region faced a precarious situation in which conflict could break out at any moment.

China has urged the US and North Korea to step back from the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict after Pyongyang warned it would not “keep its arms crossed” in the event of a pre-emptive strike.

Speaking in Beijing on Friday, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters the region faced a “precarious situation” in which “one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment”.

He made his plea before an anticipated sixth North Korean nuclear test on Saturday to mark the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung.

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not to let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Wang said, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

“If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner. It is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win.”

North Korea’s vice-foreign minister, Han Song-ryol, earlier warned it would not “keep its arms crossed” in the event of a pre-emptive US strike and would conduct a nuclear test when it saw fit.

Han told the Associated Press in an interview in Pyongyang that Donald Trump’s “aggressive” tweets aimed at the regime were “causing trouble”, adding that the mounting crisis on the peninsula was locked in a “vicious cycle”.

Experts believe Pyongyang could defy Trump by carrying out a missile launch or nuclear test to coincide with the so-called Day of the Sun on 15 April, commemorating the birth of the country’s founder. Satellite imagery has revealed signs of preparations for a possible nuclear test in a new tunnel complex at the Punggye-ri military site.

Scores of foreign reporters have been allowed into Pyongyang to cover celebrations to mark the 105th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth, but they have not been granted access to military-related areas. Some North Korea specialists played down expectations of a test, however, saying the regime was more likely to use the military parade in Pyongyang to showcase a new long-range missile it is developing.

The US vice president, Mike Pence, is due to fly to South Korea on Sunday, in what the White House said was a show of support for its regional ally. Aides said there were contingency plans for trip in case North Korea carries out a nuclear test.

On Thursday evening, NBC News cited intelligence officials as saying the US could carry out a pre-emptive conventional strike if it got intelligence that the North Koreans were about to test, but that was strongly denied by Pentagon officials.

However, administration officials repeated on Friday that military options were under active consideration in the search for containing Kim Jong-un’s nuclear aspirations.

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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