China Troubled by North Korean Rocket Launch Plans

As Pyongyang prepares for their upcoming rocket launch, Beijing held trilateral talks in Ningbo with Japan and South Korea to discuss the situation in the region, AP reports. Despite Beijing’s expression of ‘concern’, Chinese leaders are pushing for more dialogue between the countries:

“The Chinese side is troubled by the developments, and strongly encourages everyone involved on all sides, at high and low levels, to remain calm and reasonable,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters. “These issues need to be worked out in a diplomatic and peaceful manner.”

Japan’s Kyodo News service reported that Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the three sides failed to reach a consensus on the launch, an apparent reference to China’s softer approach.

“We were able to increase our common views,” Kyodo quoted Gemba as saying. “But frankly speaking, I would not say the three countries completely shared the same view.”

There have been fears in Japan and South Korea that debris could fall from the rocket, expected to be launched in the coming week. Japan’s defense minister has ordered missile units to intercept the rocket if it or its fragments threaten to hit Japan. Seoul has also warned it might shoot down any parts of the rocket heading for its territory.

While Beijing is trying to facilitate peace in the region, Pyongyang’s planned launch has garnered a harder response from Seoul and Tokyo. Bloomberg reports:

The plan must be canceled “immediately” as it threatens peace and security in the region, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said today in a statement on its website, citing discussions between Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan and his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba yesterday in Ningbo, China. In a separate meeting, Kim and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi pledged their nations will continue diplomatic efforts to steer North Korea away from provocative actions.

North Korea’s announcement that it intends to fire a long- range rocket to put a satellite in orbit this month has worsened relations with South Korea and threatens a food-aid agreement with the U.S. Japan’s government last week said it extended sanctions against North Korea by one year because of the plan.

The communist nation’s state-run Korean Central News Agency last week said North Korea would execute a “merciless” strike on anyone who seeks to intercept its satellite or collect and debris from the launch, citing a spokesman at the country’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

According to the Associated Foreign Press, Japan has also rejected an invitation from North Korea to send observers for the launch.