Asia

North Korea's neighbours consider risk of war

People wave banners and shout slogans as they attend a rally in support of North Korea's stance against the US, on Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Increasingly fiery rhetoric has been emerging from both North Korea and Washington

Rising tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have sparked two key questions in the regional media: will there be a war, and what should be done?

In China, there are fears that armed conflict is possible, with state-run paper China Daily saying yesterday that "the threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang cannot be taken lightly".

Newspapers are discussing how to prevent such a conflict, as well as what to do if prevention efforts are unsuccessful.

The past week has seen China reiterate its earlier call for a "dual suspension" deal - that Pyongyang freeze its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for Washington and Seoul halting their military drills in the area - and media are echoing this demand.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) met North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the ASEAN summit in Manila

"Sanctions alone may not easily bring Pyongyang to its senses," says the China Daily, describing such a deal as a "starting point" for de-escalation.

But if conflict were to occur, today's edition of the party-owned paper Global Times lays out what it thinks China would do.

It says that if North Korea attacks Guam, China will remain neutral but adds that if the US and South Korea attack North Korea, "China will resolutely intervene to prevent that".

Meanwhile in Russia, the risk of conflict is being played down.

"It is important to emphasise that North Korea threatens to strike areas in the ocean located 30-40km away from US territorial waters and not the waters themselves, which would have been a direct declaration of war," the influential business paper Vedomosti says, citing expert Vladimir Khrustalev.

But it adds that if such an attack happens, the US would be responsible for any escalation.

"The US may make a decision regarding the preventive strike on the basis of false interpretation of the provided technical intelligence information, even in a situation when Pyongyang does not even really plan such a strike," it says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption South Koreans watch TV coverage of the launch of North Korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile

South Korean media are much more anxious. The influential paper Hankyoreh says that "even a small miscalculation could potentially escalate into an unplanned clash".

The Choson Ilbo, another key daily, worries that Seoul is being sidelined in the spat between Pyongyang and Washington.

It hopes that Seoul will "have a say" in any US plans but adds that this "seems to be a tall order".

There is similar pessimism in the Japanese media, with the paper Asahi Shimbun maintaining that the rhetoric from both sides is "increasing the risk of war".

Meanwhile on Guam, Governor Eddie Baza Calvo has urged calm. "I want to reassure the people of Guam that currently there is no threat to our island," he said in a post on Facebook.

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