China has called on the United States and North Korea to find a peaceful solution to rising tensions after a war of words erupted after the North conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that the standoff between the two nations could only be resolved by diplomacy.
“I’ve seen that the United States has reiterated it is willing to use political and diplomatic means to resolve this, as this is their first choice,” he said.
“Of course I think that any country will feel that political diplomatic means are of course the first choice.”
Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Hong Kong, said that China “was very keen to see this issue resolved peacefully”.
“Any kind of action on North Korea will have repercussions on China,” our correspondent said.
On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, following meetings in South Korea with Hwang Kyo-ahn, the acting president.
Pence has repeatedly warned that “all options are on the table” when dealing with Pyongyang.
In Tokyo, Pence reassured Japan of the US’ commitment to reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions after warning that its own strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed the strength of its resolve.
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and it showed no let-up in its defiance after conducting a reportedly failed missile test on Sunday.
The time of dictating orders by brandishing the US military might has gone. If those businessmen in power in the US thought of intimidating us by any military or sanction threats - as the Obama administration used to do and failed - they will soon find out such threats are useles
The North has warned that its army is on “maximum alert” following Pence’s visit on Monday to the heavily militarised border between the two Koreas, where he reiterated Washington’s position that “all options are on the table” in dealing with Pyongyang.
‘Threats are useless’
Sin Hong-chol, North Korea’s deputy foreign minister, told Al Jazeera that Donald Trump’s administration “should look at the world with open eyes”.
“The time of dictating orders by brandishing the US military might has gone. If those businessmen in power in the US thought of intimidating us by any military or sanction threats – as the [Barack] Obama administration used to do and failed – they will soon find out such threats are useless,” Sin said.
North Korea’s deputy representative to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, accused the US of creating “a situation where nuclear war could break out an any time” and said Pyongyang’s next nuclear test would take place “at a time and at a place where our headquarters deems necessary”.
The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked.
US officials say tougher sanctions could include an oil embargo, a global ban on North Korea’s airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang. They say greater Chinese cooperation is vital.
China banned imports of North Korean coal, its most important export, in February, and Chinese media have raised the possibility of restricting oil shipments to the North.
North Korea and South are technically still at war because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.