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China Urges Restraint As US, North Korea Trade Threats

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In a rare move, Chinese officials released a statement about rising North Korean and U.S. tensions, urging both parties to take a step back from the situation and reassess. The statement comes a day after U.S. and South Korean forces conducted joint military drills and North Korea accused the U.S. of pushing the peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.

First reported by Reuters on May 3, the statement  asked both parties to "stop irritating each other."

The U.S. sees China as a close ally in the developing confrontation with North Korea, and the two countries are working on economic sanctions to prevent North Korea from continuing its development of nuclear weapons.

As North Korea's main trading partner and often lone supporter, China's support is necessary for any U.S. attempt to bring meaningful sanctions against the rogue state.

The latest round of strongly worded communications comes immediately after the U.S. and South Korean air forces conducted joint "nuclear bomb dropping" drills on the peninsula, according to the Independent.

North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, issued a statement saying: "Any military provocation against the DPRK will precisely mean a total war which will lead to the final doom of the U.S."

North Korea, which usually conducts closed-door diplomacy with China, took Beijing's statement as further provocation and released a rebuke of its own. Pyongyang criticized China for collaborating with the West and undermining the relationship between the two countries.

As the U.S. "era of strategic patience" comes to an end, the Trump administration appears to view North Korea as its most pressing problem, devoting both time and State Department resources to negotiating with China and North Korea, or coordinating militarily with China, Japan and South Korea. U.S. handling of the situation has forced many of the region's nations to pick a side and a stance.

Nations including South Korea, Japan and the Philippines have largely welcomed the increased U.S. presence in the region, not just to handle the North Korean threat, but also as a deterrent to Chinese expansion.

East Asian waters have seen a steady rise in island construction by China's expanding territorial claims. In response, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines have all begun to express concern. The Los Angeles Times reports that North Korea has begun building artificial islands, thought to be future missile launching areas.

Tensions may continue to rise the U.S. begins to set up it's THAAD missile defense in South Korea and continues to do military exercises with South Korean forces.

Sources: Reuters, Independent, Los Angeles Times / Photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense

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