China has called on North Korea to suspend its tests of missile and nuclear technology to “defuse a looming crisis”.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that in exchange, the US and South Korea could halt annual joint military drills, which consistently infuriate North Korea.
The appeal comes after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles on March 6, breaking international sanctions.
In response, the US began rolling out a missile defense system in South Korea.
Speaking on the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary meeting, Wang Yi said the Korean peninsula was like “two accelerating trains, coming toward each other with neither side willing to give way”.
“Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?” he asked.
A mutual halt of military operations would be the first step towards easing tensions and reopening negotiations, he said.
Three of the North Korean missiles came down inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Monday, prompting Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump to say the region had entered “a new stage of threat”.
In a unanimous statement, the UN Security Council earlier strongly condemned the launch, calling it a grave violation of North Korea’s international obligations, which risked destabilizing the region.
The Un Security Council, which will meet on March 8, also threatened to “take further significant measures” against North Korea, which could imply efforts to introduce a fresh round of sanctions.
Meanwhile, the US has again sought to reassure Beijing over deployment of an extensive missile defense system in South Korea.
The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) is designed to protect South Korea, and US troops based there, from North Korean missile attacks. The first elements of it were moved into place on March 7, hours after North Korea’s latest launch.