The Chinese premier has said his country is concerned about reports North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range missile. This is the first time a top Chinese official has spoken out about the issue.
Premier Wen Jiabao Wednesday said Beijing is paying close attention to information showing Pyongyang may soon fire a long-range missile. He urged all parties involved in the issue to refrain from taking measures that might worsen the situation.
Mr. Wen made the comments at a news conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Australia, along with the United States, Japan, and South Korea have urged Beijing to use its influence with North Korea to try to prevent the missile launch.
Andrei Lankov is a lecturer at the China and Korea Center at Australian National University. He says although China provides most of North Korea's energy and much of its food aid, the North Korean government will not take a warning from China seriously.
"North Korea used to ignore pressures from China and Russia back in the '70s and '60s when it was completely dependent economically on Moscow and Beijing," he said. "It is quite unlikely that now any outside player can have a decisive influence on North Korea."
Mr. Wen's comments were the first expression of concern about reports of missile launch preparations from a top Chinese official.
China and North Korea are both one-party communist states and historical allies.
China has refrained from criticizing North Korea's missile launch preparations directly. The United States, Japan, and South Korea have warned Pyongyang that there would be consequences if it goes ahead with the missile test.
Concerns over the missile launch preparations have further complicated six-nation efforts to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs.
Beijing has held several rounds of talks with Russia, South and North Korea, Japan, and the United States. However, negotiations have been stalled since November. Pyongyang has refused to return to talks until the U.S. lifts restrictions it imposed on North Korean enterprises for alleged illicit activities.