China says it is an 'anchor' of global peace and development
Diplomat tells North Korea to stop nuclear tests and US to end military drills
MARIKO TAI, Nikkei staff writer
BEIJING -- China's top diplomat Wang Yi said Wednesday that China was an "anchor" of global peace and development in an environment of rising economic protectionism and anti-globalization.
In a press conference held on the sidelines of the ongoing National People's Congress, Wang said that the world was facing "a growing backlash of globalization and rising protectionism" and that China "championed multilateralism, openness and inclusiveness."
Wang called for the world to rise above "an old approach of [the] zero-sum game," and instead to establish a "new type" of international relations. By this, Wang meant relations that bore "distinct Chinese characteristics and major implications for the world."
"China will continue to be an anchor of international stability, engine of global growth, the champion of peace and development, and contribute to global governance," Wang pledged.
Wang called on North Korea to cease its nuclear activities, and for the U.S. and South Korea to suspend large-scale joint military exercises to ease rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea on Monday launched four ballistic missiles toward Japan in response to the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. Wang said the current situation is like "accelerating trains coming toward each other and neither side is willing to give a way."
"The question is, are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision? Our priority now is to flash the red light and apply the brakes on both trains," Wang said.
The U.S. and Japan have also repeatedly asked Pyongyang to scale back its nuclear tests. Beijing claimed Wednesday that the key contention was between the U.S. and North Korea, and urged both countries to go back to the negotiating table.
Wang also said that the relationship between China and the U.S. was "developing in a positive direction" since U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone about a month ago, in which the U.S. leader reaffirmed Washington's longstanding "One China" stance.
Wang called U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who will visit Beijing on March 18 "a good listener and good communicator" and said that he believes the two can establish a relationship and cooperate. Wang said that the U.S. and China can be excellent partners "as long as we act on the consensus we reached between our presidents," referring to the phone conversation.
While Beijing had been reluctant to intervene between the U.S. and North Korea, it sent out a clear signal about its displeasure with the U.S.-South Korea military exercise. The U.S. deployed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or THAAD, an anti-missile system, in South Korea following North Korea's missile launch on Monday. The THAAD system, planned since July 2016, will reportedly be completed in one or two months.
Beijing sees the deployment as a threat to its own defense security and called the move by the U.S. and South Korea "a mistake." Wang said that the deployment was "very controversial" and formed the "biggest issue" between the two countries.
Chinese authorities have reportedly closed nearly two dozen stores of South Korean retailer Lotte Group, which provided land for the installation of the THAAD system.
Since the announcement of the THAAD system last year, Beijing has been punishing Seoul by banning South Korean films and pop concerts and some cosmetics imports. South Korea's trade minister Joo Hyung-hwan was reported as saying on Sunday that he felt "deep concerns" about China's actions.