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China Urges Restraint on Korean Peninsula - 2003-06-12

China is urging the United States, Australia and other countries to avoid actions that could raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The Foreign Ministry comment follows reports that some nations are discussing ways to stop the export of North Korean weapons of mass destruction.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan says the international dispute over North Korea's efforts to build nuclear weapons is hurting stability on the Korean Peninsula.

He said Thursday that efforts to pressure North Korea on the matter could worsen the situation.

Mr. Kong urged caution by all sides.

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is quite sensitive, so under such circumstances, the parties concerned should not escalate the situation," he said.

The United States, Japan and South Korea are meeting Thursday and Friday in Hawaii to discuss their policy on North Korea. The North has admitted having a nuclear weapons program in violation of several international accords. The leaders of all three countries have said that if diplomatic efforts fail to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its weapons program, then other measures may be needed. They have not specified what those measure would be.

However, some international leaders, including the Australian prime minister, say blockades to keep North Korean ships from transporting weapons of mass destruction or illegal narcotics, have been discussed.

China has opposed efforts to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang. That may be in part because Beijing fears a flood of refugees will cross into China if the pressure caused North Korea's fragile economy to collapse.

The dispute erupted last October when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted having a covert program to build nuclear weapons. The argument escalated as Washington cut off promised fuel aid and North Korea expelled United Nations nuclear monitors, pulled out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and said it already had nuclear weapons.