December 03, 2012 12:42
The Chinese government protested mildly on Sunday against North Korean plans to launch a space rocket but called for calm.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said in a statement posted on the ministry's website, "We express deep concern at North Korea's announcement that it will launch a satellite, and we have also noted the reaction of the other parties."
He added, "North Korea has a right to the peaceful use of space, but this right has been restricted by UN Security Council resolutions. [China] hopes all sides can do more to benefit peace and stability on the peninsula, and hopes all sides handle it calmly to avoid the situation escalating."
This wording is much the same as the response to North Korea's last attempted rocket launch in April.
But it came more than 24 hours after North Korea announced the launch, which awkwardly coincided with the visit of a senior Chinese apparatchik to Pyongyang.
In March, a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official summoned North Korean Ambassador Ji Jae-ryong on the night the North announced the April launch. Beijing also immediately made this fact public to put pressure on North Korea.
Diplomats in Beijing wondered whether China took longer to react this time round because the North managed to blindside it, or whether the blandness of the protest signals tacit acquiescence by the new leadership of Xi Jinping.
Pyongyang announced the launch just one day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met a Chinese delegation led by Li Jianguo, the vice chairman of National People's Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Some observers interpret this as a slap in the face for Beijing, which then took some time to recover.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in an emergency Cabinet meeting on Saturday night decided to postpone Japan-North Korea talks scheduled for Wednesday and threatened to shoot down the rocket if it comes near Japan.
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