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China warns against escalation on Korean Peninsula

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Chinese authorities have again warned against moves that could escalate the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, saying parties to the conflict should avoid actions that add to the already simmering tensions in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that a US decision to send powerful fighter jets to areas on the peninsula where the US and South Korean militaries are holding joint drills would further complicate the situation.

“We hope relevant parties can maintain restraint and not do anything to add tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Shuang told a regular briefing with reporters in Beijing.

The remarks came after US B-1B bombers that flew from the US territory of Guam in the Pacific joined the large-scale US-South Korean military exercises. North Korean officials have slammed the drills, dubbed as "Vigilant Ace" and slated to run until Friday, as another attempt by the US and its allies in the region to provoke a nuclear war.

The US military, which maintains around 30,000 troops in South Korea, has rejected Pyongyang's claims, saying the drills are never meant to simulate an invasion.

However, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement last week that the US under President Donald Trump was "begging for nuclear war" by staging the drills.

The stand-off on the Korean Peninsula was escalated in July when the North tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles. It then launched missiles over Japan and carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear tests in August. Pyongyang says the actions are in response to increasing US-led economic pressure on the country while it also serves as a deterrent against potential invasion.

The issue of joint drills between US and South Korea remains a thorny issue in the way of efforts to bring about a solution to the crisis in the peninsula. China and Russia, two countries that enjoy better ties with Pyongyang, have reiterated that Washington and Seoul need to stop the regular drills if they want North Korea to halt its weapons program.

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