BEIJING, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- North Korea's announced plan to launch a long-range rocket is testing China's mettle – and is creating a precarious situation for both countries at a time when Chinese envoy Wu Dawei is in Pyongyang for talks.
China's special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs met with Kim Gye Kwan, the North Korean first vice foreign minister, and Ri Yong Ho, North Korea's deputy foreign minister, most likely to ask for the North's maximum restraint on its nuclear weapons program, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.
But it was unclear how much influence the Chinese envoy could have in light of Pyongyang's recent announcement to launch an "Earth observation satellite" between Feb. 8 and 25. It was also not clear whether Wu was aware of Pyongyang's impending proclamation a day ahead of his trip to North Korea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday Beijing stands resolutely opposed to any actions that escalate conflict in the region, and that problems need to be resolved in negotiations with other countries.
But Lu also said that "[China] cannot restrain" North Korea, should Pyongyang opt to go ahead with a missile launch in February, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
During the press briefing on Wednesday, Lu also said North Korea reserves the "right to use space" for a satellite launch, despite the fact several experts have said the program is a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test. North Korea also has said in previous statements it is capable of making an unlimited number of hydrogen bombs and is in possession of an ICBM capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
Lu said the situation is one of "most serious concern" to China and that Beijing hopes North Korea acts prudently, and in abidance with the Sept. 19 Joint Statement that North Korea agreed to in 2005, along with the other five member countries of the six-party talks working toward denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.
The United States has called for tougher sanctions at the United Nations Security Council, but China has refrained from stronger measures that could create a crisis at its border.