China in call over Korean tensions
China has tried to defuse tension over a recent North Korean attack on South Korea by proposing an emergency meeting in Beijing, hours after the US and South Korea launched naval war games in a united show of force.
Beijing's top nuclear envoy called for the meeting among the six nations involved in the stalled North Korean nuclear disarmament talks to calm tempers over North Korea's artillery barrage last Tuesday that killed four people on South Korea's front-line island of Yeonpyeong.
Nuclear envoy Wu Dawei said in a statement issued in Beijing that the international community, particularly members of the six-party talks - the two Koreas, Japan, the US, China and Russia - were deeply concerned about recent developments. He called for an emergency meeting of chief nuclear negotiations in China in early December.
However, it was unclear whether the proposal would be accepted. Seoul and Washington have resisted restarting the disarmament-for-aid talks until Pyongyang shows concrete commitment to the process.
South Korea responded cautiously. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the proposal should be "reviewed very carefully" and noted that North Korea's recent revelation of a new uranium-enrichment facility has a "negative effect" on efforts to resume the talks.
The facility, shown to a visiting Western scientists earlier this month, could signal an expansion of the North's nuclear weapons programme.
Japan will closely coordinate with Seoul and Washington in its response to China's proposal, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama told reporters in Tokyo.
The troubled relations between the two Koreas, which fought a three-year war in the 1950s, have steadily deteriorated since a conservative government took power in 2008 with a tough new policy toward nuclear-armed North Korea.
Eight months after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship, North Korean troops showered artillery on Yeonpyeong, a South Korean-held island that houses military bases as well as a civilian population of 1,300, in an attack Tuesday that marked a new level of hostility.
Two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed and 18 others wounded when the North rained artillery on Yeonpyeong in one of the worst assaults since the 1950-53 Korean War. The attack sent residents fleeing into bunkers and reduced dozens of homes on the island to charred rubble.