Artillery shells reportedly fired as US and South Korean military leaders hold talks in Seoul on peninsula’s security.
|Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula after the North’s shelling of a Southern island last month [AFP]|
China’s foreign ministry has said that military threats could not resolve continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The statement by Jiang Yu, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, comes after Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticised China on Thursday for enabling its ally North Korea’s “reckless behaviour”.
Jiang Yu told news conference that she questioned what Mullen had done for “peace and stability in the region,” calling his remarks on China’s support for North Korea an “accusation”.
Beijing has come under increasing international pressure to defuse the tensions between North and South Korea following the North’s November 23 shelling of a South Korean island, which left four dead including two civilians and wrecked more than two dozen homes.
It was the first shelling of civilian areas in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean war.
Also on Thursday, China’s senior most foreign policymaker met Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader for talks in the capital Pyongyang.
The official Xinhua state news agency reported that “the two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean Peninsula after candid and in-depth talks”.
It marked the first time that Kim has met with a senior foreign official since the shelling of Yeongpyong island.
North Korea, which has few other allies, depends heavily on China for economic assistance and diplomatic support.
On Wednesday, the top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused China of ducking its responsibility to keep Pyongyang in line, as he announced more joint military exercises with South Korea.
“The Chinese have enormous influence over the North, influence that no other nation on earth enjoys. And yet, despite a shared interest in reducing tensions, they appear unwilling to use it,” Mullen said.
“Even tacit approval of Pyongyang’s brazenness leaves all their neighbours asking what will be next,” he added before heading for Japan for talks on defence cooperation.
James Steinberg, the US deputy secretary of state will lead a high-level delegation to Beijing next week to consult on developments on the Korean peninsula.
Steinberg this week attempted to downplay differences with China, speaking of the “critical role” Beijing can play in the situation and saying it was in the interests of both the US and China to work together.
The day before, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterparts from South Korea and Japan had held talks in Washington which ended with a call for China to do more.
The US is expected to “speak to China to tell North Korea in more clear language not to make provocations”, Kim Sung-Hwan, the South Korean foreign minister told reporters, upon his return from the United States.