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‘Hit the brakes on threats’

BEIJING (AP) — China is telling the U.S. and North Korea to “hit the brakes” on threatening words and actions and work toward a peaceful resolution of their dispute, in a sign of growing concern over the standoff on the part of Pyongyang’s only major ally.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that the two countries should work together to contain tensions and permit no one to “stir up an incident on their doorstep,” according to a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website.

“The most important task at hand is for the U.S. and North Korea to ‘hit the brakes’ on their mutual needling of each other with words and actions, to lower the temperature of the tense situation and prevent the emergence of an ‘August crisis,’” Wang was quoted as saying in the Tuesday conversation.

The ministry quoted Lavrov as saying tensions could rise again with the U.S. and South Korea set to launch large-scale military exercises on Aug. 21.

“A resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue by military force is completely unacceptable and the peninsula’s nuclear issue must be peacefully resolved by political and diplomatic methods,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

China is North Korea’s main economic partner and political backer, although relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have deteriorated amid the North’s continuing defiance of China’s calls for restraint. In recent months, China has joined with Russia in calling for the U.S. to suspend annual military exercises with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its missile and nuclear tests as a first step toward direct talks.

On Wednesday, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, continued a visit to China following talks the day before with his Chinese counterpart that touched on North Korea. No details of the talks have been released.

Dunford on Tuesday told Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department, that the sides had “many difficult issues” between them but were willing to deal with them through dialogue.

On Monday, Dunford was in Seoul to meet with senior South Korean military and political officials and the local media, seeking to ease anxiety while showing his willingness to back President Donald Trump’s warnings if need be.

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