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(LEAD) China urges restraint as N. Korea's Kim orders standby for nuke strike

All Headlines 18:02 March 04, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS fresh quotes, details from para 3)

BEIJING, March 4 (Yonhap) -- China called for calm and restraint on Friday after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military to be ready to use its atomic weapons at any time.

The order by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un marked a further escalation of tensions, a day after the North fired short-range projectiles into the East Sea in an apparent show of defiance following the U.N. Security Council's adoption of new sanctions against Pyongyang over its fourth nuclear test and rocket launch.

"The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complex and sensitive," China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. "We hope that relevant parties can exercise restraint, speak and act prudently, and refrain from taking actions that may escalate tensions."

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and launched a long-range rocket on Feb. 7, both of which violated previous U.N. resolutions.

Following the North's latest rocket launch, South Korea decided to start formal talks with the U.S. to adopt an advanced U.S. missile defense system, or the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD).

First official talks were launched on Friday in Seoul on the deployment of the THAAD battery in South Korea. China has long voiced opposition to the THAAD battery in South Korea, claiming it would undermine its own national security interests.

"The Chinese side is firmly opposed to the deployment by the U.S. and South Korea of the THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula," Hong said, repeating China's stance.

"We hope that relevant countries act with prudence and do not harm China's legitimate and strategic security interests," Hong said.

In recent weeks, Chinese officials have pushed for a "parallel track approach" of simultaneously discussing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and efforts to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, echoing a long-standing demand by North Korea. The Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

Fu Ying, spokeswoman for China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, reiterated the Chinese proposal, saying dialogue is the only way to resolve the North Korean problem.

During a separate press conference on Friday, Fu said the Korean Peninsula must not become a "forest of darkness," citing higher tensions after the passage of the new U.N. resolution.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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