BEIJING - The crisis over North Korea’s weapons programs must be resolved through talks, not war, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday, while U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the danger of “sleepwalking” into conflict.
Xi made his comments to visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered on Tuesday to begin direct talks with North Korea without pre-conditions.
But the White House said on Wednesday that no negotiations could be held until North Korea improved its behaviour.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tillerson’s offer of direct contacts with North Korea was “a very good signal” while warning that any U.S. strike on the country would have catastrophic consequences.
Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed North Korea during a phone call, the White House and Kremlin said in separate statements. The two leaders talked about “working together to resolve the very dangerous situation,” the White House said on Thursday.
Tillerson is to attend a U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting on North Korea in New York on Friday at which he plans to urge countries to maintain a U.S.-led campaign to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its weapons programs through sanctions.
North Korea tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile on Nov. 29, which it said could put all of the United States within range, in defiance of international pressure and U.N. sanctions.
The United States has said all options were on the table in dealing with North Korea, including military action.
Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Moon the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula must be stuck to, and war and chaos cannot be allowed, Chinese state media said.
“The peninsula issue must, in the end, be resolved via dialogue and consultation,” Xi was cited as saying.
China and South Korea have an important shared interest in maintaining peace, and China was willing to work with South Korea to promote talks and support North and South to improve relations, Xi said.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Xi and Moon agreed war on the peninsula would not be tolerated and they would cooperate in applying sanctions and pressure on North Korea.
The apparently warm tone of their talks followed nearly a year of tense relations between the two countries.