BEIJING (AP) -- China's foreign minister told his Japanese and South Korean counterparts that Beijing is worried about the situation on the Korean peninsula, remarks that come ahead of a planned rocket launch by Pyongyang that has rattled nerves and raised tensions in the region.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Yang Jiechi made the comments during separate bilateral meetings with envoys from Seoul and Tokyo in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo on Saturday. The three ministers were meeting in a group Sunday and were expected to further discuss the rocket launch and other regional concerns.
The Xinhua report didn't specifically mention the North Korean launch, planned for sometime between April 12-16, but said Yang expressed concerns over the "latest development on the Korean Peninsula," and called on all sides to keep calm and exercise restraint.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan urged Beijing during bilateral talks Saturday to play a larger role in mediating international concerns over the launch and called for sanctions if Pyongyang goes through with it.
The North Korean launch is meant as a showcase of national power and technology during celebrations of one of the country's most important days -- the centennial of the April 15 birth of national founder Kim Il Sung. North Korea says the rocket will carry a satellite into orbit to study crops and natural resources.
Washington and others call the launch a cover to test missile systems that could target parts of the United States. While North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests, analysts don't believe it has yet mastered the technology needed to shrink a nuclear weapon and mount it onto a missile.
North Korea has conducted three such launches since 1998. The last launch, in 2009, led to U.N. condemnation and the North walking away from six-nation nuclear disarmament talks; weeks later, Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test.