China will not favour any side in North Korea dis­pute

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

BEI­JING/SEOUL: China, which has re­fused to con­demn North Korea's at­tack on a south­ern is­land, said on Wed­nes­day it would not fa­vor any side but wanted to help re­solve the dis­pute as a "re­spon­si­ble great power."

China, North Korea's only pow­er­ful ally, pro­tected Py­ongyang from cen­sure by the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil for last week's deadly bom­bard­ment of Yeon­pyeong is­land, an at­tack many an­a­lysts be­lieve was an at­tempt to force the re­sump­tion of in­ter­na­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions that could bring it aid.

"Our gen­eral goal is for all sides to ex­er­cise calm and re­straint and to make ev­ery ef­fort to avoid such in­ci­dents re­cur­ring," Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Yang Jiechi said as South Korea planned fur­ther mil­i­tary drills for next week af­ter U.S. war­ships leave on Wed­nes­day.

"Since the ex­change of fire be­tween North and South Korea, China has made a se­ries of ef­forts to pre­vent the sit­u­a­tion from es­ca­lat­ing and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. China de­cides its po­si­tion based on the mer­its of each case and does not seek to pro­tect any side," Yang said.

Yang spoke as Chen Zhili, vice-chair­per­son of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple's Congress, met a del­e­ga­tion from North Korea. China wants to hold an emer­gency meet­ing of the six re­gional pow­ers, but the pro­posal has met with a luke­warm re­sponse.

South Korea is plan­ning fur­ther ar­tillery drills, "in­clud­ing wa­ters close to the Yel­low Sea border (with the North)" start­ing on Mon­day, Yon­hap said. The De­fense Min­istry would not com­ment on the re­port. Such drills are com­mon and the ex­er­cise would be west of Yeon­pyeong, Yon­hap said.

The plan was to "beef up its de­fense readi­ness pos­ture against any pos­si­ble ad­di­tional provo­ca­tions by North Korea," the news agency said, quot­ing of­fi­cials.

As the nu­clear-pow­ered USS Ge­orge Washington headed out of Korean wa­ters back to Ja­pan, oil traders said the U.S. Navy was seek­ing a medi­um­range oil tanker to move at least 30,000 tons of jet fuel from Ja­pan to South Korea, sug­gest­ing it was stock­pil­ing. The route is un­usual for jet fuel, but a U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said such ship­ments were stan­dard for op­er­a­tional use.

Nearly 30,000 U.S. troops are based in South Korea, which is still tech­ni­cally at war with the North, hav­ing only signed a truce to end fight­ing in the 1950-53 war.

An at­tempt by France and Bri­tain to push the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to con­demn North Korea's nu­clear pro­gram and the at­tack on Yeon­pyeong was on the verge of col­lapse be­cause of China's un­will­ing­ness to ap­por­tion blame, en­voys said. The rea­son for the vir­tual break­down of talks on two Se­cu­rity Coun­cil state­ments to re­buke Py­ongyang was China's de­mand for re­moval of words such as "con­demn" and "vi­o­la­tion." The United States and South Korea are press­ing China, which has not blamed North Korea for the is­land at­tack or for the sink­ing of a South Korean naval ves­sel in March, to do more to rein in its ally. Pres­i­dent Lee Myung-bak, widely crit­i­cized at home for a per­ceived weak re­sponse to the at­tack, has twice warned that any fur­ther provo­ca­tion would be met with force.

Out­go­ing De­fense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young told law­mak­ers on Tues­day that there was an "am­ple pos­si­bil­ity" the North may stage an­other provo­ca­tion af­ter the joint ma­neu­vers end. -Reuters

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