China Warns U.S. Over Anti-Missile Plans

China on Monday criticized plans by the United States to bolster their anti-missile defense capabilities amid increased threats from North Korea, as Reuters reports that Beijing thinks such reactions will only inflame North Korea’s recklessness:

“The anti-missile issue has a direct bearing on global and regional balance and stability. It also concerns mutual strategic interests between countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans on Friday to bolster U.S. missile defenses in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” by North Korea, which has threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States.

Hong said China believed efforts to increase security and resolve the problem of nuclear proliferation were best achieved through diplomatic means.

“Actions such as strengthening anti-missile (defenses) will intensify antagonism and will not be beneficial to finding a solution for the problem,” Hong said.

China condemned North Korea’s most recent nuclear weapons test last month, the third such test conducted by Pyongyang and the first since 2009, and even supported a unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to impose tougher sanctions on the rogue state. But as Chris Buckley of The New York Times explains, China does not think more pressure will bring North Korea back to the negotiating table:

China has long served as North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic supporter. It has opposed North Korean efforts to develop nuclear weapons, but has argued that harsh sanctions will not induce the North to abandon such ambitions.

China’s backing of the Security Council resolution, and open calls from prominent Chinese experts for their government to distance itself from North Korea, stirred speculation among some observers that China might move to reduce its political and economic support for the North.

But Chinese officials have been stressing that North Korea has its own security worries that should be dealt with, and that they do not see sanctions as the right tool to bring the North back to negotiations.