China asks North Korea to ensure safety of its nationals

BEIJING/SEOUL: China deplored rising tension on the Korean peninsula on Sunday, but said its embassy was operating normally in the North Korean capital and asked authorities there to ensure its diplomats and other citizens were kept safe.

North Korea, angry at new sanctions imposed on it for testing nuclear weapons, has made increasingly strident warnings of an imminent war with South Korea and the United States.

It told diplomats on Friday to consider leaving Pyongyang because of rising tension, but diplomatic missions appeared to view the appeal as more rhetoric and stayed put.

The United States, keen to avoid actions which could provoke the North, on Saturday postponed a long-scheduled missile test in California.

China is North Korea’s sole major diplomatic and financial backer, but official statements have reflected a degree of impatience at the actions of authorities under 30-year-old leader Kim Jong-un.

“At present tensions on the Korean peninsula are rising unceasingly, and China expresses grave concern about this,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website (www.mfa.gov.cn).

“The Chinese government has already asked the North Korea side to earnestly ensure the safety of Chinese diplomats in North Korea, in accordance with the Vienna Convention and international laws and norms.”

The Chinese embassy, it said, was “understood” to be operating normally in Pyongyang. China would “protect the legal rights and safety of Chinese citizens and Chinese-invested organizations in North Korea”.

A ministry statement late on Saturday quoting Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said Beijing would “not allow troublemaking on China’s doorstep”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressing a forum on Sunday, appeared to refer further to boosted tensions when he said no country “should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain”.

“Stability in Asia now faces new challenges, as hot spot issues keep emerging and both traditional and non-traditional security threats exist,” he said on the southern island of Hainan.


In Washington, a defense official said a test of the Minuteman III intercontinental missile, scheduled for next week at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, would now be postponed.

“This is the logical, prudent and responsible course of action to take,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said the test had been unconnected to “anything related to North Korea” and added that another test launch could be expected next month. The United States remained fully prepared to respond to any North Korean threat, the official said.

North Korean anger over the sanctions following its third nuclear weapons test in February has been compounded by joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began on March 1.

North Korea has always condemned the exercises held by U.S. forces and their South Korean allies. But its comments have been especially vitriolic this year as the United States dispatched B-2 bombers from its home bases to stage mock runs.

China’s Xinhua news agency, reporting on the North’s suggestion to diplomats to evacuate, quoted the North’s Foreign Ministry at the weekend as saying the issue was no longer whether but when a war would break out.