China engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity on Friday, three days after a North Korean artillery attack on South Korean civilians, but its most public message was directed at the United States, which is about to begin joint exercises with South Korea’s Navy.
In a statement from its Foreign Ministry, China warned against “any military acts in our exclusive economic zone without permission,” the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Friday. But virtually all the waters to the west of the Korean Peninsula, where the United States said the exercises would take place, lie within that zone, and American naval traffic is far from uncommon there.
Adding yet more tension to the situation, the North’s state-run media also warned that the maneuvers could push the Korean Peninsula closer to “the brink of war.”
The West has hoped that China would use its leverage as the North’s traditional ally to press it to refrain from further attacks, but the Chinese statement on Friday failed even to criticize the North for its shelling on Tuesday. The attack killed four people.
The Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, met with the North Korean ambassador on Friday and spoke by phone with his South Korean and American counterparts, but few details emerged about the content of their conversations.