Speaking on Korean issue, China’s premier says no one wants ‘chaos on their doorstep’

Escalating tension would harm all involved, Li Keqiang warns at annual NPC press conference

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 6:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 March, 2017, 11:29pm

Escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula will only lead to harm for all concerned, Premier Li Keqiang warned as he called for dialogue to contain Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

But Li made no mention of Beijing’s row with Seoul and Washington over the deployment of an controversial anti-missile system, which the United States began to deploy in South Korea this month. China views the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence missile system (THAAD), as a threat to its own strategic interests as THAAD’s powerful radar system could penetrate China’s military secrets, and Beijing has long opposed the deployment.

South Korea says the system is only to protect itself from missile threats from the North.

“We hope that through efforts by different parties, the tense atmosphere can be eased and all the parties can come back to the track of duologue,” Li said at his annual press conference following the close the National People’s Congress on Wednesday. “It’s common sense that no one wants to see constant chaos on their doorstep.”

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have escalated in recent weeks after Pyongyang launched four ballistic missiles earlier this month, during the annual US-South Korea military drills in South Korea, in which the USS Carl Vinson, a US navy super-carrier, participated.

On Tuesday, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) warned that its army would launch “merciless” strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater if the US super-carrier infringed on its sovereignty or dignity during the drill.

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Relations between China and South Korea have also soured in the past weeks – Beijing banned Chinese tour groups from visiting South Korea while Lotte, a South Korean retail conglomerate, faced facing a consumer boycott in China after it agreed to provide Seoul with land on which to host THAAD.

Li’s comment came the same day as Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, started his first mission to Asia since taking office. He arrived in Japan on Wednesday and is scheduled to fly to Seoul on Friday and China on Saturday.

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Zhu Feng, an international relations expert at Nanjing University, said it was not necessary for Beijing to further criticise THAAD or South Korea at this moment when Seoul faced an unprecedented political crisis after its first female president, Park Guen-hye, was removed from office by impeachment on Friday.

“Beijing has expressed its strong opposition already and any excessive criticism at this moment would not be in line with China’s interests,” he said.

The North Korea issue is also expected to be raised at a meeting reported to be planned between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which could take place early next month.