By Simon Denyer,
BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping urged President Trump to exercise restraint over tensions with North Korea, during a phone call Friday night, Chinese state media reported.
After a week of threats and counter-threats between Washington and Pyongyang, Xi urged both sides not to do anything that would aggravate tensions, China’s CGTN state television network reported.
Xi said China hoped the parties concerned would exercise restraint and refrain from taking any action that will aggravate tensions on the peninsula, according to CGTN. Dialogue, negotiations and a political settlement are the fundamental ways of solving the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear issue, Xi said.
The two leaders vowed to remain in close touch over the situation, state media said. The call took place Saturday Beijing time.
Trump is scheduled to visit China later this year.
China has viewed the rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang with some alarm, and has repeatedly urged dialogue to lower tensions. Although China supported stiffer United Nations sanctions last weekend after repeated North Korean missile tests, , Chinese officials also want a restart of six-party talks, which stalled in 2009. Those talks would involve North and South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.
The war of words has given China the chance to project itself as the voice of reason and restraint while others lose their heads. It argues that Washington’s long-standing belligerence towards North Korea helps explain why the regime has chosen to develop a nuclear weapons program — dodging its own responsibility for propping up the North Korean government.
Xi “stressed that China and the U.S. share the same interests on the denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” CGTN said.
But China is deeply resistant to doing anything that could destabilize or topple the regime in Pyongyang. The Chinese government has worked to prevent a unified Korean state allied to the United States, going all the way back to the 1950-53 Korean War that saw hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers die. China remains North Korea’s major trading partner, providing the regime’s economic lifeline.
On Tuesday, President Trump threatened to respond to further threats from North Korea by unleashing “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Pyongyang in turn said it could strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the Western Pacific with ballistic missiles. In his latest salvos in the war of words, Trump said Friday that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” and that North Korea would “truly regret it” if it attacked Guam.
In an editorial on Friday, China’s state owned Global Times newspaper warned that China won’t come to North Korea’s aid if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation — but that China would intervene if Washington strikes first.
“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” the Global Times wrote. “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”
Shirley Feng contributed to this report.
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