China on Friday dismissed renewed pressure from US President Donald Trump over its role in North Korea, saying the crux of the matter was a dispute between Washington and Pyongyang. Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that China could solve the national security challenge posed by North Korea “very easily if they want to”, turning up pressure on Beijing to exert more influence to rein in Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose actions.
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China has made clear that it opposes North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and has repeatedly called for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and a return to negotiations between Pyongyang and world powers. It has also insisted it is dedicated to enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea.
“We have said many times already that the crux of the North Korean nuclear issue is the problem between the United States and North Korea,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing, responding to Trump’s remarks. “We hope the relevant parties can shoulder their responsibilities, play the role the should, and together with China play a constructive role for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and for its denuclearisation,” he added. The official Xinhua news agency said China’s influence on North Korea had been exaggerated.
“The Trump White House needs to make the first move and talk to Pyongyang. The United States stands to lose nothing for trying this,” it said in an English-language commentary. China announced on Saturday last week it was banning imports of coal from North Korea, after it tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile.
North Korean state media issued a rare reproach of China on Thursday saying its main diplomatic backer was “dancing to the tune” of the United States for halting its coal imports because of its nuclear and missile programmes. The North’s state-run KCNA news agency did not refer directly to China by name but in an unmistakable censure it accused a “neighbouring country” of going along with North Korea’s enemies to “bring down its social system”.
Asked about the report, Geng said the U.N. sanctions were a clear signal of opposition from the international community about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and that China would enforce them. However, he also described China and North Korea as being friendly neighbours.
“We are willing to work with North Korea to promote the stable and healthy development of relations,” Geng said, adding North Korea was well aware of China’s position on its nuclear programme.