“To defuse the looming crisis on the [Korean] peninsula, China proposes that as a first step, the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] may suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the halt of the large-scale US-ROK exercises,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday, using the acronyms for the two Koreas.
“The two sides are like two accelerating trains coming towards each other with neither side willing to give way,” Wang said at a news conference on the sidelines of China’s annual parliament session.
“The question is: Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision? Our priority now is to flash the red light and apply the brakes on both trains.”
Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Beijing, said the proposals Wang made “are very difficult to implement”.
A cascade of events has led to a dramatic increase in tensions in northeast Asia.
Pyongyang blasted at least four missiles across the ocean towards Japan on Monday, three of them splashing down into waters within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
‘Suspension for suspension’
Seoul and Washington have begun annual joint military exercises that always infuriate Pyongyang, and the US has said it has started deploying an anti-missile system directed at North Korea, but which Beijing has taken as a threat to its own defence interests.
“This ‘suspension for suspension’ can help us break out of the security dilemma and bring the parties back to the negotiating table,” Wang said of his proposal.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next week to discuss the two countries’ relationship.
In his news conference on Wednesday, Wang said that he hopes that China and the US “can truly rise up over the old ideas, open up new horizons and build a new mature and robust relationship, so that we can put the minds of our two people and the whole world at ease”.
He said the relationship beween China and the US is on a “positive track”.
Meanwhile in Seoul, Se-Woong Koo, a security and political expert, told Al Jazeera that South Koreans themselves are “divided” about the deployment of the US missiles, with conservatives supporting it.
He said that South Korea could “pay the price” in terms of business and tourism with China, after deciding to deploy the US missiles.