If North Korea attacks the United States, China will not come to North Korea's aid — or that's the country's official stance at the moment. In a state-run newspaper on Thursday, an editorial promised, "If North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral." However, the same editorial also stressed that if the United States strikes first and tries to "change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula," China will step in and "prevent them from doing so."
Global Times, the newspaper that published the editorial, is not the official mouthpiece of the President Xi Jingping's communist regime; however, the editorial likely represents officials' opinions of the intensifying situation, according to experts cited by The Washington Post.
"China hopes that all relevant parties will be cautious on their words and actions."
"The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement to The Washington Post.
China hopes that all relevant parties will be cautious on their words and actions, and do things that help to alleviate tensions and enhance mutual trust, rather than walk on the old pathway of taking turns in shows of strength, and upgrading the tensions.
President Donald Trump has in recent days escalated tensions with North Korea — which has been conducting test launches of missiles for several years. "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!" he tweeted on Friday.
The "locked and loaded" tweet on Friday seemed to amplify the president's threatening comments made earlier this week. "[Kim] has been very threatening beyond a normal state," Trump said on Tuesday. "They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the current strategy — which, apart from the president's commentary, is largely focused on diplomatic solutions — has traction. He said he was hesitant to start a war with the small, impoverished Asian country.
You can see the American effort is diplomatically led. It has diplomatic traction. It is gaining diplomatic results. And I want to stay right there right now. ... The tragedy of war is well enough known; it doesn't need another characterization, beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic.
The editorial in Global Times seemed to agree with Mattis: War should be avoided.
The real danger is that such a reckless game may lead to miscalculations and a strategic "war." That is to say, neither Washington nor Pyongyang really wants war, but a war could break out anyway as they do not have the experience of putting such an extreme game under control.