China is stepping up efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis without sanctions or the use of force. Chinese officials have repeated their calls for a UN condemnation of North Korea, but are stopping short of committing their support for tough UN sanctions in response to Pyongyang's claims it tested a nuclear device.
China intensified diplomatic efforts to bring North Korea back to negotiations on its nuclear program, as the UN Security Council prepared to consider a resolution on tough new sanctions against Pyongyang.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao - at a regular briefing in Beijing - said it is necessary to express to North Korea that conducting a nuclear test was - in his words - "the wrong practice." But he did not say whether China would support UN sanctions.
"Currently, China is in contact with other members of the UN Security Council as to what measures should be taken and what appropriate resolution should be adopted to cope with the situation in the Korean Peninsula. We are consulting with other parties and hope the consultation will be conducive toward pushing forward the diplomatic efforts to solve the Korean peninsula issue."
Liu's tempered remarks were in sharp contrast to earlier this week, when China angrily condemned North Korea's announcement that it had conducted a nuclear test - an act Beijing described as "brazen."
The United States has proposed that the U.N. resolution include financial restrictions and an arms embargo. Japan plans to impose its own strong measures - including banning North Korean ships from Japanese waters.
China - North Korea's main source of food and fuel - has been reluctant to support punitive measures against its longtime ally, for fear of destabilizing the country.
Beijing has sent a special envoy to Washington to consult with U.S. officials on how to respond to Pyongyang's actions. Chinese officials say they are talking with the U.S. about a possible visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Beijing.
There was no comment from U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing. South Korea's president heads to Beijing on Friday for a day of consultations with Chinese leaders.