Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi warned both the United States and North Korea on Friday to cool their increasingly sharp statements and threats or risk "irreversible damage" — and possible war — on the Korean peninsula, China's official Xinhua news agency said.
"On the Korean Peninsula issue, it is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win," Wang said. "If war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, multiple parties will lose and no one will win."
The remarks come against a backdrop of increasingly heated statements from Washington and Pyongyang, the prospects of a nuclear weapons test by North Korea, hints of a possible pre-emptive strike by the U.S. and the buildup of U.S. naval forces closer to the area.
The Trump administration has warned that a policy of "strategic patience" with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs is over. Vice President Mike Pence will be in South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.
Tensions are particularly high going into the weekend. Pyongyang frequently uses important state holidays as an opportunity to demonstrate its military power, leading to speculation it may be preparing to conduct a nuclear test Saturday, the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.
"We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory or threatening statements or deeds to prevent irreversible damage to the situation on the Korean Peninsula," Wang told reporters after talks in Beijing with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
Wang stressed Beijing has been working hard to create the prospects for a resumption of talks between Washington and Pyongyang and said all parties should seize them.
“As long as dialogue takes place, it can be official or unofficial, through one channel or dual channels, bilateral or multilateral. China is willing to give support to all of them,” he said.
Last month, Xinhua noted, the foreign minister suggested as a first step that North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the suspension of large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises. That proposal was quickly dismissed by Washington.
President Trump, who is spending the Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, said Friday that China has been working hard to dissuade its communist neighbor from conducting a nuclear or missile test, and "we'll see how it goes."
"North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of," he said.
In a show of strength, the U.S. deployed the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters near the Korean Peninsula in response to recent North Korean missile tests.
For its part, North Korea’s Vice Minister Han Song Ryol told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview earlier Friday that his country will keep building up its nuclear arsenal in “quality and quantity.”
"We will go to war if they choose," he said.
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