China’s Foreign Minister warned that an armed conflict with North Korea may break out “at any moment,” urging Washington and Pyongyang to tone down their hawkish rhetoric and realize the price to pay for both sides if a new Korean War were to start.
The extraordinary warning comes amid massive US military buildup near the Korean Peninsula, with the carrier strike group ‘USS Carl Vinson’ heading towards the region. While US President Donald Trump is threatening to “take care” of the North Korean “problem,” Pyongyang says it is ready to repel any military action.
“Lately, tensions have risen with the US and the ROK [South Korea] on one side, and the DPRK [North Korea] on the other,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Friday, adding that “One has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment.”
He cautioned both sides that “if a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner,” and that whichever side provoked a conflict “must assume the historic responsibility and pay the corresponding price.”
Earlier in the day, Wang said both Washington and Pyongyang must refrain from “provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” as cited by Reuters.
In an apparent attempt to cool down the US administration’s bellicose rhetoric, he added: “Force cannot solve the problem – dialogue can be the only channel to resolving the problem.”
China, North Korea’s close ally and main trading partner, does not welcome Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but advocates finding political solution to the crisis. For its part, Russia, which also shares a land border with the reclusive state, expressed deep concern over the mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The tension on the Korean Peninsula was one of the topics Wang Yi discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a Friday phone call.
Moscow stands for “politico-diplomatic reconciliation” and urges all parties to show patience and refrain from “any actions which might mean making provocative steps,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.
From 1950 to 1953, the US fought against North Korea’s troops in the Korean War. After the US-led coalition forces crossed the 38th parallel dividing the two Koreas, China deployed troops and entered the war, while the USSR rendered military and logistical support to their socialist allies. The conflict, which quickly became a war of attrition, claimed the lives of over 33,000 American and 400,000 North Korean soldiers.
According to some media reports, the ongoing US military buildup close to North Korean waters may go far beyond an ordinary show of force. On Thursday, American intelligence officials told NBC that the US has sent two destroyers capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles in the region, with one just 300 miles (some 480 km) from the North Korean nuclear test site.
American long-range bombers have also been positioned in Guam to hit North Korean targets. In turn, North Korea warned on Tuesday it would retaliate to any sign of American aggression with all means available.
“If the US dares opt for a military action, crying out for ‘pre-emptive attack’, [Pyongyang] is ready to react. We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions,” North Korea’s deputy foreign minister said in an interview with AP.
“The US introduces into the Korean Peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of a war,” the North’s General Staff said in a statement carried by KCNA.