China tells US, North Korea to 'hit brakes' on threats

China wants US to halt military exercises on the Korean Peninsula in exchange for North Korea suspending nuclear tests.

    China has warned the United States and North Korea to "hit the brakes" on threats and actions, and work towards a peaceful resolution of their dispute.

    Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday, said the two countries should work together and contain tensions.

    Russia and China should not permit any party to "stir up an incident on their doorstep", he said.

    The warnings come after North Korea angered the international community by testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in late July, a move which saw Pyongyang slapped with new UN sanctions.

    Meanwhile, China and Russia called for the US to suspend planned large-scale military exercises in exchange for North Korea suspending its missile and nuclear test as a first step towards direct talks.

    Lavrov said the August 21 exercises could stoke tensions, according to China's foreign ministry.

    He said a resolution of the dispute through military force was "completely unacceptable".

    On Tuesday, North Korea said it had completed plans to test ballistic missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam but would wait to see what the US did first.

    READ MORE: North Korea's Guam threats can lead to 'big trouble'

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration remains interested in a dialogue with North Korea but is waiting for some sign of interest from Pyongyang.

    "We continue to be interested in trying to find a way to get to dialogue, but that's up to him," Tillerson told reporters at the Department of State.

    State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said North Korea's decision to hold off was not enough and Pyongyang would have to show it was "intent on denuclearising the Korean Peninsula". 

    "I think they would have to do quite a bit more," Nauert said. "They know what they need to do to get us to come to the negotiating table."

    US and North Korea are in a 'propaganda spat'

    North Korea decried UN sanctions over its expanding nuclear weapons and missile programme and said annual military drills between the US and South Korea are rehearsals for an invasion.

    Guam residents unsettled 

    The protracted diplomatic crisis has unsettled residents of Guam, a US Pacific territory.

    "If anyone says they're going to drop a bomb on you, naturally you're going to feel threatened, whoever is there to defend you," Hila'an San Nicolas, a jeweller, told Al Jazeera.

    Al Jazeera's Craig Leeson, reporting from Guam, said officials and residents were continuing to make preparations in the event of an attack.

    "Residents have been advised to stock up on batteries, mobile phones, nonperishable foods and water," our correspondent said.

    The threat of attack has prompted calls for peace from Guam's indigenous people, who are wary of yet another conflict.

    Ray Tonorio, Guam's lieutenant-governor, said he was relieved as North Korea appeared to back away.

    "There doesn't appear to be any indication, based on what we're hearing, that there will be any missiles attacking in the near future or in the distant future," he said. 

    There was no change in Guam's threat assessment, he said, adding that the island is operating as usual.

    READ MORE: Three things to know about North Korea's missile tests

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged the US not to launch an attack on the Korean Peninsula without its consent and said his government would prevent war by all means.

    "Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by South Korea, and no one else can decide to take military action without the consent of South Korea," Moon said in a speech on Tuesday to commemorate the anniversary of the nation's liberation from Japanese military rule in 1945.

    "The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means," Moon said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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