Chinese ambassador 'cautiously optimistic' that diplomatic solution can be found with North Korea

Rachael Revesz

The UK’s Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming has said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the potential for a diplomatic solution between the western world and North Korea.

Speaking on Robert Peston on Sunday, Ambassador Liu said China’s goals include making North Korea nuclear-free and building a “comprehensive approach to the issue”.

“I would say I am still cautiously optimistic,” he said.

“I still believe that if all parties engage with each other and we encourage North Korea to return to the negotiation table, we can still find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.”

Asked whether China should impose tougher sanctions on North Korea, Mr Liu replied that the country has consistently voted in favour of sanctions since 2006, and 16 such UN sanctions have been imposed in that time.

“China strictly abides by the resolutions and implements our obligation. The important thing you have to realise is that you can’t vote for sanctions for sanctions' purpose [sake]. Sanctions are a means, not a purpose.”

China has come under fire from western leaders, including US President Donald Trump, for failing to deal harshly with its neighbour due to its trade and travel links. China is a big supplier of the regime’s crude oil and North Korea supplies textiles to China, making around $3 billion in expert revenue.

Kim Jong-un’s regime claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb in August. It has carried out several tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles, designed to be attached to nuclear warheads to the US.

North Korea also flew a missile over Japan for the first time this year.

The ambassador’s comments to ITV over the weekend display a more positive view of diplomatic relations following Mr Trump’s speech about the North Korea threat ar the recent United Nations summit, in which he called Jong-un “Little Rocket Man” and claimed the US, if necessary, would “totally destroy” the country.

Jong-un responded that Mr Trump was “mentally deranged” and claimed that the US and South Korea’s increased military drills were a “rehearsal for invasion”.