BEIJING— China’s foreign ministry is responding to comments from U.S. lawmakers who argue Beijing has not sufficiently pressured North Korea to stop its warlike rhetoric.
In Senate hearings in Washington and in televised media appearances this week, U.S. lawmakers have expressed disappointment that North Korea’s main ally, China, has not done more to pressure the north to stop its threats against Washington and Seoul.
When asked Wednesday if China would exercise its leverage on Pyongyang, China’s Foreign Ministry said that its position remains consistent.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China maintains there should be peace and stability on the peninsula. He said relevant problems should be solved through dialogue and consultation and that all parties should exercise calm and restraint.
Previous calls unheeded
China is the North’s largest provider of food aid and North Korea’s largest trading partner. But despite their historical alliance, Beijing’s calls for reducing tensions have gone unheeded in Pyongyang.
As tensions on the peninsula have risen, the U.S. Navy has moved two missile defense ships near the Korean peninsula and a ground-based missile defense system to Guam, two years ahead of schedule.
Analysts say the Korean escalation has reinforced Washington’s so-called “Asia pivot” strategy, which calls for rebalancing U.S. military and diplomatic attention towards Asia.
James Holt, an Associate Professor at Nanjing University, says China resents U.S. plans for increased military resources near its border.
“It’s clear that the Chinese don’t like the U.S. announcement in so far as it seems to imply that China is a threat in the region, because certainly that is not the Chinese view," said Holt. "I don’t think they see it as helpful for the U.S. to try to militarize conflicts in the region.”
While the U.S. military’s responses to the Korean tensions may make China uncomfortable, Holt says continued provocations from the North are unlikely to significantly affect ties between Beijing and Washington.
"I don’t think they are significant enough to derail it in any sense. If anything it may give the Chinese government incentive to perhaps pressure North Korea a little bit more to avoid some of the more extreme actions that it might otherwise take,” added Holt.
After Pyongyang’s last rocket launch in December, and nuclear test in February, Chinese authorities reduced oil exports to the North, though authorities did not say if it was aimed at punishing Pyongyang.
South Korean officials warn that North Korea may test a missile this week.