* China deplores rising tension on Korean peninsula
* Xi Jinping says stability in Asia faces new challenges
* U.S. postpones missile test to ease situation
By Ben Blanchard and Jane Chung
BEIJING/SEOUL, April 7 China deplored rising
tension on the Korean peninsula on Sunday, but said its embassy
was operating normally in the North Korean capital and asked
authorities there to ensure its diplomats and other citizens
were kept safe.
North Korea, angry at new sanctions imposed on it for
testing nuclear weapons, has made increasingly strident warnings
of an imminent war with South Korea and the United States.
It told diplomats on Friday to consider leaving Pyongyang
because of rising tension, but diplomatic missions appeared to
view the appeal as more rhetoric and stayed put.
The United States, keen to avoid actions which could provoke
the North, on Saturday postponed a long-scheduled missile test
China is North Korea's sole major diplomatic and financial
backer, but official statements have reflected a degree of
impatience at the actions of authorities under 30-year-old
leader Kim Jong-un.
"At present tensions on the Korean peninsula are rising
unceasingly, and China expresses grave concern about this,"
China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website
"The Chinese government has already asked the North Korea
side to earnestly ensure the safety of Chinese diplomats in
North Korea, in accordance with the Vienna Convention and
international laws and norms."
The Chinese embassy, it said, was "understood" to be
operating normally in Pyongyang. China would "protect the legal
rights and safety of Chinese citizens and Chinese-invested
organisations in North Korea".
A ministry statement late on Saturday quoting Foreign
Minister Wang Yi, said Beijing would "not allow troublemaking on
Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressing a forum on Sunday,
appeared to refer further to boosted tensions when he said no
country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole
world into chaos for selfish gain".
"Stability in Asia now faces new challenges, as hot spot
issues keep emerging and both traditional and non-traditional
security threats exist," he said on the southern island of
"LOGICAL, PRUDENT, RESPONSIBLE"
In Washington, a defence official said a test of the
Minuteman III intercontinental missile, scheduled for next week
at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, would now be
"This is the logical, prudent and responsible course of
action to take," the official said, speaking on condition of
He said the test had been unconnected to "anything related
to North Korea" and added that another test launch could be
expected next month. The United States remained fully prepared
to respond to any North Korean threat, the official said.
North Korean anger over the sanctions following its third
nuclear weapons test in February has been compounded by joint
U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began on March 1.
North Korea has always condemned the exercises held by U.S.
forces and their South Korean allies. But its comments have been
especially vitriolic this year as the United States dispatched
B-2 bombers from its home bases to stage mock runs.
China's Xinhua news agency, reporting on the North's
suggestion to diplomats to evacuate, quoted the North's Foreign
Ministry at the weekend as saying the issue was no longer
whether but when a war would break out.
North Korean television provided little evidence of tension
in the reclusive state on Sunday, with newscasts showing old
footage of Kim visiting military units and other items
concerning the country's leaders.
Nor was there any trace of tension in the South Korean
capital, Seoul, with residents ignoring an early spring chill to
stroll in the city centre.
South Korean media on Friday said the North had moved two
medium-range missiles to the country's east coast, but there has
been no confirmation of such a move. That prompted the White
House to say that Washington would "not be surprised" if the
North staged another missile test.
Kim Jong-un is the third member of his dynasty to rule North
Korea. He took over in December 2011 after the death of his
father, Kim Jong-il, who staged confrontations with South Korea
and the United States throughout his 17-year rule.
Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency, in a dispatch from London,
quoted British diplomatic sources as saying North Korea believed
the situation could be stabilised if U.S. President Barack Obama
personally called Kim.
"North Korea is waiting for that call from Washington," Tass
quoted the source as saying.
North Korea has not shut down a symbol of joint cooperation
with the South, the Kaesong industrial zone just inside its
border. But last week it prevented South Koreans from entering
the complex and about 100 of them who remained were due to
return home on Saturday, leaving a further 500 there.
On Sunday, a South Korean who had fallen ill was taken out
of the industrial zone by car.