China stance 'depends on which side strikes first'

BEIJING • If North Korea launches an attack that threatens the United States, China should stay neutral. But if the US attacks first and tries to overthrow North Korea's government, China will stop it, a Chinese state-run newspaper said yesterday.

In an editorial, The Global Times, a tabloid owned by party mouthpiece People's Daily, said Beijing should make it clear to both sides that "when their actions jeopardise China's interests, China will respond with a firm hand".

"China should also make it clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral," it added.

"If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so."

Beijing has warned both sides against actions that raise tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Yesterday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing hopes the relevant parties would speak and act cautiously, and do more to ease tension and enhance trust. He added that they should not take the old path of taking turns to demonstrate their strength, causing tension to escalate unceasingly.

The Global Times warning comes at the end of a week of threats and counter-threats between Washington and Pyongyang, as the US weighs up its options to deal with the threat of North Korea's nuclear and missile programme, The Washington Post reported.

The Global Times said both sides were engaging in a "reckless game" that runs the risk of descending into a real war.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump threatened to respond to further threats from North Korea by unleashing "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

Pyongyang then threatened to strike the US territory of Guam in the Western Pacific with ballistic missiles.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2017, with the headline 'China stance 'depends on which side strikes first''. Print Edition | Subscribe