A man in Seoul looks at television screens showing a news broadcast reporting… (Seong Joon Cho / Bloomberg )
BEIJING -- China said Tuesday that it firmly opposed North Korea's testing of an atomic device and called for stability and a halt to nuclear proliferation in northeast Asia.
"The Chinese government calls on all parties to respond calmly, solve the problem of denuclearization of the peninsula through dialogue and consultation in the framework of the six-party talks," China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
China joined the U.S., Russia and Britain as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council condemning the North Korean test, which was conducted Tuesday morning about 80 miles from the Chinese border.
Beijing's position is especially important because China is seen as North Korea's sole ally and chief economic benefactor. The international community looks to Beijing to influence its feisty neighbor to the east.
But Chinese leaders are believed to be increasingly frustrated by Pyongyang's defiance in the face of international pressure to cease its nuclear weapons program. China agreed to tougher U.N. sanctions against North Korea after the so-called hermit nation launched a rocket in December.
State media in China have openly called on Beijing to reexamine its relationship with Pyongyang -- representing another major foreign policy challenge for incoming Chinese President Xi Jinping when he takes office in March.
China is already clashing with Japan over claims to a collection of islands in the East China Sea.
Though Beijing loathes the instability triggered by each North Korean provocation, analysts say it fears a regime collapse in Pyongyang even more. That could potentially send millions of refugees into China and eliminate a buffer state between South Korea, a major U.S. ally.
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