World

China stays on the sidelines of North Korea-US dispute

BEIJING: Angered as the United States and its allies ignore Chinese calls to calm tensions over North Korea, and distracted by domestic concerns, China is largely sitting out the latest crisis with nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

China, whose regular daily foreign ministry press briefings are suspended for a two-week summer holiday, has said little in public about the situation this week, reiterating its usual calls for calm and restraint.

President Xi Jinping has been out of the public eye for more than a week, likely because he is at a secretive Communist Party conclave in the seaside resort of Beidaihe preparing for a key party congress in the autumn, diplomats say.

One Beijing-based Asian diplomat said China was also distracted by a protracted border dispute with India.

"China has different priorities and it's clear what they are," said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

State media has as usual called for dialogue to end the crisis, but has also lambasted the United States and its allies for doing little to damp down the flames.

The official Xinhua news agency yesterday accused Japan of "fishing in troubled waters", using North Korea as an excuse for its own remilitarisation.

Also yesterday, the influential Chinese tabloid Global Times said Washington "only wants to heighten the sanctions and military threats against Pyongyang".

China also believes its influence over North Korea, whose relationship China used to describe as "close as lips and teeth," is limited.

"China has never 'owned' North Korea, and North Korea has never listened to China's suggestions," said Zhang Liangui, a North Korea expert at China's Central Party School, which trains rising officials.

"Neither North Korea nor the United States listens to China. They're too busy heading down the path to a military clash.

"There's not much China can do. China can't stop North Korea and it can't stop the United States." - REUTERS

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