China on Thursday blamed the “negative impact” of US military drills for tensions on the Korean peninsula, after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile that prompted Japan to briefly issue a seek shelter warning.

South Korea North Korea AFP
People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a railway station in Seoul on April 13, 2023. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP.

South Korea’s military said it had detected one “medium range or longer” ballistic missile from the Pyongyang area on Thursday morning, adding it was likely a “new type” that may have used advanced solid fuel.

Japan briefly issued the seek shelter warning to residents of the northern Hokkaido region, but later said the missile had not fallen within the country’s territory and posed no threat.

In response to a question about the missile launch at a regular press briefing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “The current round of tension on the peninsula has its causes. The negative impact of the US military drills and deployment of strategic weapons around the peninsula is obvious to all.”

Washington and Seoul have intensified defence cooperation recently, staging joint military exercises with advanced stealth jets and high-profile US strategic assets.

North Korea views such exercises as rehearsals for invasion, and on Tuesday described them as “frantic” drills “simulating an all-out war against” Pyongyang.

US warship
An US warship in the Gulf of Thailand, Feb. 22, 2023. File photo: Michael Lieberknecht/U.S. Pacific Fleet, via Flickr.

The United States has said it “strongly condemns” North Korea for Thursday’s missile test.

It is the latest in a string of banned weapons tests conducted by North Korea, which has already fired several of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles this year.

Wang said Beijing called on all parties to “remain calm and restrained” and to stop “exerting pressure and confrontation”.

“The US side especially should take concrete actions at an early date and respond to the reasonable concerns of the DPRK (North Korea) and create conditions for easing tension and restarting dialogue as soon as possible,” he added.

Climate and environment ministers from the Group of Seven are due to meet this weekend in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s regional capital, a month before the group holds its summit in Hiroshima.

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