March 15, 2017 – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang today called for new talks to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula, ahead of a visit to the region this week by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that is expected to focus heavily on efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
He acknowledged the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia in general, saying any conflict would be disastrous for all sides.
“So what we hope is that all the parties concerned will work together to deescalate the situation, get issues back on the track of dialogue and work together to find proper solutions,” Li said at his annual news conference held on the final day of the annual legislative session.
China is Pyongyang’s most important diplomatic ally and economic partner, and has been under growing pressure from the U.S. to use its influence to rein in actions by the North seen as provocative.
China has long urged a resumption of six-nation denuclearization talks on hold since North Korea withdrew from them in 2009, and says its leverage over Pyongyang is limited. Despite that, China last month suspended imports of North Korean coal for the rest of the year, depriving Kim Jong Un’s regime of a crucial source of foreign currency.
Tillerson arrives in Beijing on Saturday following visits to U.S. allies Japan and South Korea.
Complicating his mission to Beijing are China’s strenuous objections to the initial deployment to South Korea of a U.S. missile defense system that have strained relations between Seoul and Beijing and sparked a snowballing economic boycott against South Korea among some Chinese.
In addition to assuaging China’s concerns, Tillerson will also seek to arrange a much-anticipated visit by President Xi Jinping to the United States.