Beijing — On Thursday, China welcomed comments by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Washington would not seek regime change in North Korea, after a week of verbal sparring between the two countries over Pyongyang’s weapons programme.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said "We attach importance to the remarks" when questioned on the US’s latest comments on the North, which has caused international alarm with two recent missile tests.
"We have noted that the US side has recently paid more attention to security issues on the peninsula — China has always believed that security is at the core of the problem," Wang said, at a joint press conference with the visiting foreign minister of Turkey.
Wang’s statement alluded to Tillerson’s efforts to underscore that Washington would not seek to topple North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. "We do not seek a regime change. We do not seek the collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated re-unification of the peninsula," Tillerson told reporters on Tuesday.
North Korea’s push to build a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening US cities has brought the region to the brink of crisis, and Washington is scrambling to find a solution. Tillerson said Washington would be willing to talk to the North if its leaders accept that they must disarm, and said that Beijing was not to blame for the situation. His statement struck a more diplomatic tone than that of US President Donald Trump, who has demanded that China rein in its neighbour’s nuclear ambitions — angrily tweeting over the weekend that Beijing is not doing enough.
The president tweeted that he was "very disappointed in China" after the North boasted last week that the entire mainland US was within range of its intercontinental ballistic missiles. "Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk," tweeted Trump.
Trump has repeatedly urged China, North Korea’s main trade partner and ally, to use its economic sway to curb the regime’s nuclear programme, while Beijing insists dialogue is the only practical way forward.
Wang said that China has maintained a "continuous and stable position" on the issue, calling on "parties to not take any action that will lead to escalating tensions". On the heels of Trump’s accusations, Tillerson’s remarks "show courage", said an approving editorial in China’s Global Times, a state-run, nationalistic tabloid.