BEIJING - China would step up its protection of North Korea should the isolated state halt its nuclear program, an editorial in a state-backed newspaper said on Thursday, as Beijing tries to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Pyongyang's continued nuclear and missile testing program has prompted the United States to send a navy carrier group to near the Korean peninsula in a show of force aimed at deterring more tests.
North Korea marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung on Saturday, North Korea's biggest national day called "Day of the Sun". Leaders have in the past used the date to carry out weapons tests.
China, North Korea's main ally, has called for a peaceful resolution of the Korean tensions.
"As soon as the North Korea complies with China's declared advice and suspends nuclear activities... China will actively work to protect the security of a denuclearized North Korean nation and regime," said the editorial in the Global Times, which is published by the People's Daily, the Communist party's official paper.
"This is Pyongyang's best option," it added.
North Korea has launched several missile tests this year, the latest on April 5 when it fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast. It conducted its fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9, 2016.
China's foreign ministry on Wednesday reiterated Beijing's position of calming the situation via a "dual suspension" of North Korea's nuclear tests and the United States' joint military drills with South Korea.
The main goal of North Korea's nuclear program is to protect the country's security and to place itself on an even footing with the United States, the Global Times said in the editorial in its Chinese language edition.
But North Korea's nuclear ambitions are merely a "utopia", given US military might and United Nations Security Council sanctions.
"North Korea is currently just about the world's most isolated country, it is already totally blocked-off," the paper said. "A modern state cannot continue to exist like this."