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China on S Korea drill: No one should 'promote conflict'

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Vice Foreign Minister of China, Cui Tiankai.

BEIJING (AFP): China Monday called for calm on the Korean peninsula, saying no one had a right to "preach or promote conflict" after South Korea staged a live-fire military exercise on a frontline border island.

Beijing, North Korea's main ally, had earlier warned that any bloodshed on the Korean peninsula would be a "national tragedy", as tensions soared in the build-up for the Monday drill on the island bombarded by Pyongyang last month.

"China always maintains that peace and stability must be maintained on the peninsula. This is a goal we have been working very hard to achieve all along," Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told reporters.

"No one has any right to preach or promote conflict or war, and no one has any right to cause bloodshed between the peoples in the north and south of the peninsula," he said when asked to comment on the drill carried out by Seoul.

In his comments, delivered at a press conference following a meeting with Australian officials on human rights issues, Cui neither directly criticised the South nor warned Beijing's ally Pyongyang against retaliation.

The Chinese official said dialogue was the only way forward to resolve the crisis sparked by the North's November 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong island, which left four people dead including two civilians.

Pyongyang has warned it would retaliate if Seoul went ahead with the military exercise.

"In recent weeks and months, we have had quite intensive diplomacy with the relevant parties related to the Korean peninsula," Cui said.

"Whatever the differences and disputes relevant parties may have, they can only be addressed through dialogue and negotiation rather than by conflict or war."

US troubleshooter Bill Richardson, who was wrapping up a trip to Pyongyang as the drill was carried out, has described the situation on the peninsula as a "tinderbox" and urged North Korea to show "maximum restraint" over the drill.

Earlier, China's deputy permanent envoy to the United Nations, Wang Min, told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that further bloodshed on the Korean peninsula would be a "national tragedy", Xinhua news agency reported.

Wang said that "bloodshed and conflict would lead to a national tragedy of fratricide" between the two Koreas, damage regional stability and affect neighbouring countries, the report said.

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