A Chinese newspaper thought to reflect the thinking of leaders in Beijing has issued a warning to both North Korea and the United States about a preemptive strike. An editorial in the Global Times warns the North that if Pyongyang decides to launch an attack threatening US soil, China will not help when the US retaliates, reports Reuters. But the editorial also says that if the US and South Korea strike first and try to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong Un, "China will prevent them from doing so." The editorial expresses frustration with the rhetoric and actions of both. Beijing, it says, "needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China's interests, China will respond with a firm hand."
The newspaper is not an "official mouthpiece" of the Chinese government, but it's at least "semiofficial" and likely reflects the government's position, notes the Washington Post. China has a long-standing agreement to defend North Korea, but that 1961 pact leaves some wiggle room if Pyongyang is the instigator. The editorial reflects that, with the key line being, "China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral." It's telling, says an expert on North Korea at China's Renmin University. "China opposes North Korea testing missiles in the waters around Guam." (President Trump, meanwhile, continued his tough talk in a Friday tweet.)