BEIJING – Responding to regional worries over North Korea’s bellicose threats, China on Sunday expressed concern and what appeared to be veiled criticism of its longtime ally.
“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at an economic forum in Hainan Province. Avoiding mentioning North Korea by name, Xi said, “While pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others.”
Xi said that the international community and its collective scrutiny should act as a platform for common development rather than an “arena where gladiators fight each other.”
On Sunday, China’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement saying it is “seriously concerned” about the “continuously escalating tensions.”
The comments from China come on the heels of several days of escalating threats by North Korea on the United States and South Korea, including the possibility of nuclear attacks.
China — long seen as a key factor propping up the regime in Pyongyang — recently has shown signs of frustration after North Korea ignored its pleas not to carry out a recent nuclear test.
Chinese officials who value stability above all else are unlikely to abandon North Korea altogether in the near future. But sensing an opening amid Chinese frustrations, the Obama administration is trying to push Beijing to take a much stronger stance against the renegade country than it has in the past, U.S. officials have said in public and private comments in recent days.
“Clearly with the border they have, with the economic relationship that they have, they can do more,” Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday at a women’s summit in New York. “What’s interesting about China’s stance now is that you can tell by the nature of their statements, by the nature of their actions, that unlike in the past, they also are very much of the view that (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un has gone too far, and that this now is a situation that has the potential to directly threaten their interests in the region — both economic and security.”
China’s statement Sunday, posted on the website of its Foreign Ministry, also seemed to dismiss as empty rhetoric North Korea’s warnings Friday that diplomats should think about leaving Pyongyang because of increasing tensions. Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang is operating normally.
In addition, China’s foreign minister called U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Saturday night to discuss the situation, according to the Foreign Ministry.
In the conversation, Wang Yi repeated China’s oft-stated position that issues with North Korea can be solved only through dialogue, but he also said China is opposed to “any provocative words and actions from any party in the region and does not allow troublemaking at the doorsteps of China.”