Ridding Korea of nuclear weapons China’s ‘unswerving goal’

Xi stresses dialogue remains way forward after Pyongyang carries out missile launch

Experts say North Korea's new intercontinental ballistic missile is its most advanced yet. Here's why. Video: New York Times

 

President Xi Jinping said removing nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula was China’s “unswerving goal” after Pyongyang dramatically raised tensions by firing a missile reportedly able to reach the US mainland.

However, he stressed dialogue was the only way to resolve the crisis.

North Korea’s latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile appeared to indicate it had the ability to reach the US mainland with its rockets, although experts are unsure whether its nuclear weapons can be carried in those missiles.

Mr Xi repeated China’s message of keeping channels of communication open with the US and other countries involved, while stressing the need for a peaceful settlement via dialogue and negotiations. However, beyond this message, there were few details.

In the wake of the call with Mr Xi, US president Donald Trump promised in a tweet that “additional major sanctions” would be imposed on Pyongyang.

“Just spoke to President Xi JInping of China concerning the latest provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”

However, it was far from clear whether Mr Xi had agreed to impose any additional sanctions on Pyongyang. China’s support is crucial to the North Korean economy, and cutting off oil would be a major disaster for the country, but China has so far refused to intensify sanctions it feels could destabilise North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s government.

The US has mentioned unilaterally intensifying sanctions on Pyongyang, but these are unlikely to make a big difference to the fortunes of North Korea.

The Chinese foreign ministry said this week it opposes any unilateral sanctions bypassing the UN Security Council.

China is also not averse to using military drills to put pressure on North Korea, despite constant reassurances that it will not use force to resolve the issue.

Training

People’s Liberation Army troops from the northern theatre command were training in the Horqin grasslands in northeast China, but defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told the PLA Daily that the drills were not aimed at any particular country, but rather to test the army’s ability to deal with cold weather.

In an editorial, the Global Times newspaper, which because of strict censorship generally reflects the views of the Communist Party, described US foreign policy on North Korea as “nothing but an abysmal failure” and repeated the Chinese mantra that sanctions do not work.

“It is time the US realised that increasing and tightening sanctions already in place will not have the desired effect. Since yesterday, Pyongyang has never been this confident. Condemnations from the UN Security Council and the new sanctions that may follow will solve nothing,” it said.

“The international political stage is an Olympic-level playing field for global relations. The only choice today’s international community has is to solve this issue carefully and with great patience,” it said.