An editorial published Thursday in a Chinese state-owned newspaper issued dual warnings to the United States and North Korea against military action on the Korean Peninsula, asserting that “China will respond with a firm hand” if its interests are threatened by either nation.
The editorial, whose contents were reported by The Washington Post, was published by The Global Times. While the newspaper is not the official voice of China’s communist party, it can be considered a “semiofficial” mouthpiece for the Chinese government, experts told the Post, and the contents of the editorial likely reflect China’s true position.
China would not come to North Korea’s aid if it were to launch missiles that threaten U.S. territory and prompt a U.S. retaliation, the editorial said. But the editorial also warned that China would seek to stop the U.S. and South Korea from any effort at regime change in North Korea.
“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” the editorial read. “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”
Tensions across the Pacific have mounted in recent weeks, sparked by North Korea’s testing of ballistic missiles that could have the capability of striking the continental U.S. as well as news reports that North Korea may already possess a nuclear warhead miniaturized small enough to fit inside one of those missiles.
President Donald Trump responded earlier this week with a warning that North Korea would be subject to “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues its threatening behavior, prompting Pyongyang to respond by threatening to surround the U.S. territory of Guam with an “enveloping fire.”
Despite calls for Trump to dial back the rhetoric and cool tensions with North Korea, the president said on Thursday of his “fire and fury” statement that “maybe it wasn’t tough enough.”