China called for restraint on Monday after North Korea test-launched four ballistic missiles, criticising the move but also suggesting that South Korea and the United States were partly to blame.
“China is opposed to the DPRK’s launches in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing, using the initials of the North’s formal name. “Under current circumstances, relevant parties should exercise restraint and avoid anything that would provoke each other or heighten regional tensions.”
South Korea and the US last week began annual joint military exercises that always infuriate Pyongyang. Geng said that last Friday China’s top envoy on North Korea nuclear issues Wu Dawei had called his counterparts in Washington and Seoul.
Wu warned both countries that “the large-scale joint military exercise between the US and South Korea is not helping with the settlement of the Korean peninsula issue. On the contrary, it may widen divisions and complicate the issue,” Geng said. The launch comes at a sensitive time as China’s political elite gather in Beijing for the country’s annual legislative meeting.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally and main trade partner, has come under pressure to do more to rein in Pyongyang. Last month it announced a suspension of coal imports from the North following an earlier rocket launch and the assassination in Malaysia of the brother of the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un. The halt infuriated Pyongyang and its state media carried unusual criticism of Beijing for “dancing to the tune of the US.”
Last week North Korea’s vice foreign minister Ri Kil-Song visited Beijing for discussions.