China on Tuesday urged all sides to “exercise restraint” on the Korean Peninsula, as Pyongyang's gears up to launch what it is calling a weather satellite in the next few days.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China is worried about what he referred to only as “the development of the situation” on the Korean Peninsula. Liu called on all parties concerned to stay calm and to avoid an escalation of tensions there.
The remark appeared aimed at China's close ally North Korea as much as its neighbors, including South Korea, Japan and the United States.
Dong Wang, a Peking University international studies associate professor, described the situation as “dangerous.”
“I think China, of course, will try to do what it can to persuade North Korea to do what is in the best interest of regional peace, and not to do the things that will bring more instability to the region," Dong said. "I think China will definitely convey that information clearly to North Korea.”
North Korea insists the only purpose of its launch is to put a satellite into space. That makes the situation delicate for China, Wang said.
“The declared intention of this launch is for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of their great leader, right? So, I think this carries a lot of political symbolism here. And, I think China just has to be sensitive to the North Koreans, their dignity and their self-pride,” he said.
North Korea has already announced that the satellite will play a song praising Kim Il Sung, he added, which reinforces Pyongyang's claim that its intentions are innocent. Wang also points out that North Korea has invited many foreign journalists to Pyongyang, which would make it harder to, in his words, “cheat the whole world.”
But Western analysts say that even the launch of an innocent satellite provides North Korea a means of testing its ballistic missile, which could later be fitted with a nuclear warhead.