- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2013

China appealed for calm on the Korean peninsula Friday as North Korea’s hereditary dictator Kim Jong-un visited a front line artillery unit that shelled the South three years ago.

Tensions on the peninsula, divided since a 1953 armistice agreement halted but did not end a war between the Western-backed South and the Communist North, have been ratcheted up in recent days. U.S. and South Korean forces are poised to begin joint military exercises on Monday and on Thursday the U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed sanctions on the North in response to its latest illegal nuclear test last month.

Both events have provoked harsh rhetoric from the North, which has threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States and vowed to pull out of the armistice.

According to the BBC, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying told a news conference on Friday, “China calls on the relevant parties to be calm and exercise restraint and avoid taking any further action that would cause any further escalations.”

His remarks came as AFP reported that Mr. Kim visited military units on two islands on the disputed maritime border with South Korea. Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Mr. Kim told troops the North’s military was “fully ready to fight a Korean style all-out war.”

On Mu island he inspected artillery units that shelled the nearby South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in November 2010, killing four and triggering an exchange of fire that nearly tipped the peninsula into war.

State television showed Mr. Kim inspecting the craters left by South artillery shells on the island in what he described as the “most gratifying” battle since the end of the Korean War 60 years ago.