China has urged its ally North Korea to proceed with a historic summit between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and US president Donald Trump amid threats from Pyongyang to scrap the meeting.
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the sides should ensure the meeting runs as planned and yields “substantial outcomes”.
Mr Kim and Mr Trump are due to meet in Singapore on June 12, but Pyongyang has threatened to withdraw, saying it has no interest in a “one-sided” affair meant to pressure it into abandoning its nuclear weapons.
Mr Lu said the meeting was crucial to reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and maintaining regional peace and stability.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration is “still hopeful” that a planned summit with North Korea will take place.
Ms Sanders said threats from the North to scrap the meeting were “something that we fully expected”.
She said Mr Trump is “ready for very tough negotiations”, adding that “if they want to meet, we’ll be ready and if they don’t, that’s OK”. She said if there is no meeting, the US would “continue with the campaign of maximum pressure” against the North.
The Chinese call came as President Xi Jinping met with a delegation from North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, at which he expressed support for the North’s avowed new emphasis on economic development along with improving relations with South Korea.
Mr Xi said: “We support the improvement of North-South (Korean) relations, the promotion of dialogue between North Korea and the US, denuclearisation on the peninsula and North Korea’s development of its economy and improvement of its people’s livelihood.”
The North’s warning came hours after it abruptly cancelled a high-level meeting with South Korea, in protest over US-South Korean military exercises.
A senior Japanese official said Tokyo considers the US-South Korean joint exercise, along with those between the three allies, as key pillars of deterrence in the region.
Deputy chief cabinet secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said Japan is moving ahead with the preparation for planned talks between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump in the hopes they would provide a momentum toward comprehensively resolving North Korea’s problems.
Mr Nishimura said Japan will continue to cooperate with the US and South Korea and they agree on the need to maintain sanctions until the North changes its current policy.
He said: “We believe that steady implementation of the US-South Korea joint military exercise is important to maintain the regional peace and safety.”
South Korea’s defence ministry said the exercises will go on.
Spokeswoman Choi Hyunsoo said the Max Thunder drills are chiefly about improving the skills of pilots, and are not attack exercises.
The drills, which began on Monday and reportedly include some 100 aircraft, will continue until May 25.