(National Sentinel) War: A state-run Chinese newspaper has said if North Korea attacks the United States first, then Beijing should remain neutral in the conflict, but if the U.S. launches a preemptive strike then China should move to defend its erstwhile ally, Reuters reported.

The Global Times, which is widely read throughout the country, noted that Beijing has been unable to convince Pyongyang or Washington to back off their rhetoric.

“It 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,” said the paper, which does not represent government policy.

“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added.

“If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

China will “firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned.”

China has long been concerned that any regime change in the North — and the resultant reunification of both Koreas — would see the installation of a U.S.-backed government located on its border. Also, Beijing is fearful of a torrent of refugees flooding across its border from North Korea, which it has used as a buffer for decades between itself, the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

“The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should try to be the absolute dominator of the region,” the Global Times noted further.

China is North Korea’s principle trading partner; 90 percent of North Korean exports go to China and Pyongyang imports most of its goods from China.

In recent days both China and Russia voted with the UN Security Council to place additional economic sanctions on North Korea in what was considered a victory for the Trump administration, though there is some speculation within the U.S. intelligence community that China will not uphold its pledge to punish North Korea economically or do anything that would conflict with Beijing’s national security interests.

China has deployed as many as 150,000 troops near its border with North Korea; Russia has also deployed a sizable force along its shared border as well.

Meanwhile, there are U.S. military options for North Korean contingencies on the table, Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed on Thursday. His affirmation followed one made earlier this month by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said anyone who thinks that the U.S. has ‘no good options’ in dealing with North Korea are “wrong.”

“Obviously we’re spending a lot of time looking at, in particular, North Korea,” President Donald J. Trump told reporters Thursday, “and we are preparing for many different alternative events.”

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