Korean crisis: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang doesn’t want chaos on China’s doorstep

Kirsty Needham
Beijing: Rising tension on the Korean Peninsula may lead to conflict and must be de-escalated, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has said after the close of China’s annual parliament.

The annual press conference, in which selected Chinese and foreign media ask a number of pre-vetted questions, marks the closure of China’s annual parliament session.

Mr Li said the situation in North Asia had become “quite tense – tension may lead to conflict which will only bring harm to all the parties involved”.

He called for the parties to work together to defuse the situation and get back on the track of dialogue. 

“It is just common sense that no one wants to see chaos on their doorstep,” Mr Li said at the annual press conference in Beijing.

The comments come as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in the region to discuss North Korea’s rogue nuclear and missile program, visiting Japan and South Korea before heading to Beijing on Saturday.

North Korea’s test-firing of missiles last week, the swift deployment of a US defence radar in South Korea that is opposed by China, and the exit of the South Korean president, have contributed to recent anxieties.

Ahead of an expected meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the United States next month, Mr Li said the relationship was crucial not just for the two countries but for regional and global peace, security and stability.

Mr Li said he was optimistic about the future for China’s relationship with the US, after the Trump administration had affirmed the One China policy, because of extensive common interests.

He said there were differences with the US over jobs, exchange rates and security, but it was important for both countries to uphold shared strategic interests and talk to each other.

Mr Li said China did not want a trade war, and said trade with China had created up to a million jobs in the US.

He cited a recent international think tank that predicted it would be US companies that bore the brunt of any US-China trade war.

“No matter what bumps this relationship may run into, we hope this relationship will continue to move forward in a positive direction.”

No China ‘hard landing’

Mr Li said China had created 50 million new urban jobs in the past four years without resorting to massive stimulus programs, and this should dispel international fears that China was heading for a hard landing.

Medium growth projected for the Chinese economy “should suffice to put such a hard landing policy to a full stop”, he said.

He compared China’s expected GDP growth rate of 6.5 per cent this year, slightly lower than in 2016, to an adult Shaolin temple monk performing fewer acrobatic turns than the younger monks because of his larger size.

Mr Li said 6.5 per cent would translate to greater economic output than a year ago, and an enhanced quality of growth. This would include an additional 11 million new urban jobs.

Mr Li travels to Australia on March 24 for talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whom he has met on several occasions.

Asked about China’s role in global free trade, as the US retreated from agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr Li said China would continue to open its economy and welcomed progress in regional trading arrangements.

He said China would have an “open-minded approach” to various regional trade arrangements that place conditions on participants, and would work to push these forward, but added China had no intention of overreaching.

China has sent an observer to a Pacific trade meeting in Chile this week at which TPP proponents including Australia are also meeting.

 

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