China says North Korea a "serious concern"

Other News Materials 24 June 2009 12:06 (UTC +04:00)

China shares the region's "serious concerns" about a nuclear North Korea and urged all parties to keep negotiating, a senior Chinese military officer said Wednesday after talks with Pentagon officials, reported Reuters

Lieutenant-General Ma Xiaotian did not announce any new measures against Pyongyang, but said Beijing was concerned about North Korea, which staged a second nuclear test on May 25, prompting new U.N. sanctions.

"For the regional security of northeast Asia, the North Korean nuclear issue is not only a serious concern for the United States and neighboring South Korea and Japan, but is also for China," Ma told a news conference after talks with a U.S. delegation led by Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy.

But Ma also repeated China's position that the dispute with North Korea must be defused through negotiations.

"We hope and encourage the relevant parties to take positive steps and more stabilizing measures to control developments on the Korean Peninsula, to address the issues through diplomatic negotiations, consultations and dialogue."

The United States has ratcheted up the pressure on North Korea, tracking its ships in a bid to deter arms shipments banned under the recent U.N. resolution.

Ma told reporters that the talks did not cover the issue of those North Korean ships.

Ma also said the United States and China had agreed to hold special consultations in July to address the issue of preventing sea confrontations.

"The two sides agreed to work together to avoid such incidents recurring," Ma said, referring to recent skirmishes between Chinese and U.S. vessels off China.

In recent months, Chinese vessels have become involved in several brief, non-fatal confrontations with U.S. surveillance vessels in seas off the Chinese coast that Beijing claims are in its exclusive economic zone.

The Pentagon has objected, saying the U.S. ships involved were operating within international law.

Ma gave an upbeat view of prospects for improving relations between the two military powers.

"The two sides agreed to work together to strive for improvement," he said.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills and Jeremy Laurence)