May 23, 2017 / 4:56 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-China urges North Korea not to violate U.N. resolutions

(Adds quotes and details)

BEIJING, May 23 (Reuters) - China urged North Korea not to violate U.N. Security Council resolutions with its nuclear and missile programmes, after Pyongyang said it had successfully tested what it called an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

The United States has been trying to persuade China, North Korea's lone major ally, to do more to rein in North Korea, which has conducted dozens of missile launches and tested two nuclear bombs since the start of last year, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The North has made no secret of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States and has ignored calls to halt its weapons programmes, even from China. It says the programme is necessary to counter U.S. aggression.

"We urge North Korea to not do anything to again violate U.N. Security Council resolutions," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's website on Tuesday.

"At the same time, we hope all parties can maintain restraint, not be influenced by every single incident, ... persist in carrying out Security Council resolutions on North Korea and persevere with the resolution of the issue through peaceful means, dialogue and consultation."

Wang was responding to reporters' questions on Monday while in Ivory Coast, according to the statement.

North Korea said on Monday that Sunday's launch met all technical requirements that could allow mass-production of the missile, which it calls the Pukguksong-2, although U.S. officials and experts questioned the extent of its progress.

The test was North Korea's second in a week and South Korea's new liberal government said it dashed its hopes for peace on the peninsula.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible over its weapons programmes, although U.S. officials say tougher sanctions, not military force, are the preferred option to counter the North Korean threat.

Wang also said that China had seen a "new change" on the part of South Korea with its willingness to "actively seek appropriate channels for dealing with the THAAD missile systems issue".

"We hope South Korea can ... quickly pull out the thorn stuck in the throat of bilateral relations," Wang said.

Relations between Beijing and Seoul, strained by South Korea's hosting of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, have taken on a more conciliatory tone with the election earlier this month of President Moon Jae-in.

China has been infuriated by the U.S. deployment of THAAD in South Korea, saying it is a threat to its security and will do nothing to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

The United States and South Korea have said the deployment is aimed purely at defending against any threat from North Korea, which experts have thought for months is preparing for what would be its sixth nuclear test in total.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie

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