Beijing – China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned Friday — but it would intervene if Washington strikes first.
The stern Chinese warning came as government leaders and politicians around the world urged calm after a series of threats and counterthreats by the U.S. and North Korean governments. The brinkmanship has spread jitters and weighed on global financial markets, which were down Friday for a fourth day.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday called the escalating rhetoric “the wrong answer.” She pledged her country’s support for “any nonmilitary solutions,” telling reporters, “I don’t see a military solution to this conflict.”
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that there had been an “overwhelming amount” of “belligerent rhetoric” from Washington and Pyongyang. “The side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions, he said.
China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and it strongly reiterated that message Friday.
“China hopes that all relevant parties will be cautious in their words and actions, and do things that help to alleviate tensions and enhance mutual trust, rather than walk on the old pathway of taking turns in shows of strength,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
In an editorial, the Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides that “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”
“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,” it added. “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.”
The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably reflects government policy, experts said.
Trump said Thursday that he planned to speak by telephone Friday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
As the vacationing president tossed off remarks that in other times would have indicated imminent conflict, U.S. friends and foes could only watch and wait.
“Nobody loves a peaceful solution more than President Trump,” Trump said late in the day after a meeting in Bedminster, N.J., with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
But, Trump said, “we could also have a bad solution.”
Speaking in Berlin, Merkel said, “I see the need for enduring work at the [United Nations] Security Council … as well as tight cooperation between the countries involved, especially the U.S. and China.”
Germany, Merkel said, “will very intensively take part in the options for resolution that are not military, but I consider a verbal escalation to be the wrong response.”
Asked about Merkel’s remarks, Trump said: “Perhaps she was speaking for Germany. She is certainly not referring to the United States.” He called Merkel “a very good person” who was a friend of his.
In Russia, Lavrov said that the risks of direct conflict “are very high, especially given this rhetoric, when direct threats of using force are being made.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long argued for a tougher line on North Korea, pushing to strengthen Japan’s military and antimissile defense.
In recent days, Abe and other senior officials have reiterated their support of the U.S. president’s strategy. Trump is “putting all options on the table,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. “Our government approves of that stance. It’s extremely important that the Japan-U.S. alliance further strengthens its ability to deter and respond.”
In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “America stands by its allies, including Australia … and we stand by the United States.” He called on Kim Jong Un’s regime to stop its “illegal, reckless, provocative conduct.”