Wen stresses need to resume talks as ROK defense chief quits over clash
BEIJING - China renewed its call on Thursday for all sides to exert restraint over escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula, as Seoul announced it will strengthen its military force on five islands close to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea (ROK) defense minister resigned amid intense criticism of its military's response to the North's barrage on Tuesday.
Premier Wen Jiabao called on all sides to exert "maximum restraint", adding Beijing opposes military provocation in any form.
He said the resumption of the Six-Party Talks is essential to resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, according to a statement posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website on Thursday.
Wen made the remarks during his meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday in Moscow, it said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei echoed the premier at a regular news briefing.
"China has been advocating all parties to solve the dispute through dialogue," he said.
The resumption of the talks was "urgently needed", Hong said, adding that all parties involved should "do more to ease" the situation.
The DPRK and the ROK exchanged fire on Tuesday, with both sides accusing the other of initiating the attack. The bombardment of Yeonpyeong island, near a disputed maritime border, killed four people.
Kim Tae-young, the ROK defense minister, resigned on Thursday in the wake of criticism of the military's response. The presidential office confirmed the president had accepted the resignation and the appointment of a new defense chief will be announced on Friday.
The ROK will boost ground troops on Yeonpyeong island and four other nearby islands, Reuters reported.
The DPRK warned of additional attacks if the ROK carries out any "reckless military provocations".
The DPRK "will wage second and even third rounds of attacks without any hesitation, if warmongers in the ROK make reckless military provocations again", the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the military as saying.
Washington said China is "pivotal" in moving the DPRK in a fundamentally different direction, the Associated Press quoted State Department spokesman Philip Crowley as saying.
The United States and the ROK announced on Wednesday that they will conduct joint war games over four days, starting on Sunday, in the Yellow Sea.
Chinese experts said talks, instead of saber rattling, are the best way to resolve the situation.
"Military means will have no effect," Huang Youfu, director of the Institute of Korean Studies at Minzu University of China, told China Daily on Thursday. "The right way is to return to the negotiating table."
PiaoJianyi, director of the Center of Korean Peninsula Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said he does not think that pressuring any single country will help. "It is not a matter of pushing the DPRK or China. It is a matter of having all parties return to talks."
Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, said he did not think the situation will turn into all-out war.
He suggested thatWashington maintain the current two-track policy of pressure and conditional engagement toward the DPRK.
Tang Yingzi, Wang Chenyan and agencies contributed to this story.
(China Daily 11/26/2010 page1)