BEIJING - China said on Saturday that it will work with Afghanistan to fight terrorism, after it blamed a deadly train station attack on extremists from its western Xinjiang region, which shares a short border with the war-torn nation.
Beijing has become increasingly concerned about security in restive Xinjiang, where it says extremists receive help from militants in neighbouring countries. China says separatists from the region, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority, launched a terrorist attack in the southwestern city of Kunminglast week, killing at least 29 people and injuring about 140.
China will work with the international community for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and support reconstruction, Foreign Minister Wang Yisaid at a press briefing during an annual session of China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament.
“We will also work with Afghanistan and other neighbours to resolutely fight all terrorist forces,” he said. China will host a foreign ministerial conference on Afghanistan in August to encourage “a move toward lasting peace”, Wang said.
Wang last month visited Afghanistan as US and allied troops prepare to draw down their forces after more than 12 years of fighting Taliban extremists.
China has been stepping up its engagement with other regional players in recent months in Afghanistan, Beijing-based diplomats say, mainly out of concern that the NATO-led force’s pullout may spawn instability that could spill into Xinjiang.
Many Uighurs in the energy-rich region, which borders ex-Soviet Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, chafe at Chinese restrictions on their culture and religion. More than 100 people there have been killed in unrest in the past year, according to Chinese state media reports.
China bristles at suggestions from exiles and rights groups that the violence is driven more by unhappiness at government policies than by any serious threat from extremist groups who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan. Experts say militant ideology does in part fuel the unrest, but the level of organisation has long been disputed.
China said that there was no room for compromise with Japan on questions of history and disputed territory, “each inch” of which it would defend from its Asian neighbour.
China’s ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what China sees as Japan’s failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two. Beijing’s anger over the past is never far from the surface, and relations have deteriorated sharply over the past 18 months because of a dispute over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. “On the two issues of principle, history and territory, there is no room for compromise,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of China’s annual parliament.
“Only by making a clean break with the past and stop going back on one’s own words can the relationship emerge from the current impasse and have a future,” Wang said, reiterating China’s oft-stated stance.
Beijing declared a “red line” on North Korea on Saturday, saying that China will not permit chaos or war on the Korean peninsula, and that peace can only come through denuclearisation.
China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic supporter, though Beijing’s patience with Pyongyang has been severely tested following three nuclear tests and numerous bouts of sabre rattling, including missile launches.
“The Korean peninsula is right on China’s doorstep. We have a red line, that is, we will not allow war or instability on the Korean peninsula,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of China’s annual largely rubber-stamp parliament.
Wang called upon all parties to “exercise restraint”, adding that “genuine and lasting peace” on the peninsula was only possible with denuclearisation.
US Secretary of State John Kerry visited China last month and said after talks in Beijing that China and the United States were discussing specific ways to press North Korea to give up its nuclear programme.
Western countries and independent experts have accused China of failing to implement properly UN sanctions on North Korea, including punitive measures adopted after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February last year.
North Korea has forged ahead with its nuclear development after declaring the so-called six-party talks dead in 2008, overturning its commitments made under a 2005 disarmament deal aimed at rewarding it with economic incentives.
Wang reiterated China’s calls for a resumption of the talks between North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and hostChina.
“Confrontation can only bring tension, and war can only cause disaster,” Wang said. “Some dialogue is better than none, and better early than later.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged world powers last month to refer North Korea to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court following a UN report documenting crimes against humanity comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.
China has rejected what it said was “unreasonable criticism” of Beijing in the UN report, but has not said directly whether it would veto any proceedings in the Security Council to bring Pyongyang to book.
The team also recommended targeted UN sanctions against civil officials and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes. North Korea is already subject to UN sanctions for refusing to give up its atomic bomb programme.