By Christian Shepherd
MANILA (Reuters) - China's foreign minister said on Sunday new U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea were an appropriate response to a series of recent missile tests but talks were necessary to resolve an issue now at a critical juncture.
Speaking on the sidelines of a regional foreign ministers' meeting in Manila, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the U.N. resolution's call for a return to talks emphasized that diplomatic and peaceful means were necessary to avoid tensions.
"After the implementation of the resolutions, the Korean peninsula issue enters into a critical juncture," he told reporters.
"We call on all sides to take a responsible attitude when making judgments and taking actions. Especially we need to avoid further escalation of the situation.
"We cannot do one and neglect the other. Sanctions are needed but sanctions are not the final goal," Wang said.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday that could slash by a third the Asian state's $3 billion annual export revenue over Pyongyang's two July intercontinental ballistic missile tests.
The U.S.-drafted resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.
It also prohibits countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean laborers working abroad, bans new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures.
NORTH KOREA AT ASEAN
North Korea's tests of its long-range missiles are expected to dominate Monday's ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which gathers 27 foreign ministers - including those of Russia, Japan, the United States, China and North and South Korea - to discuss security issues.
Officials in Washington say Pyongyang's latest missile test a week ago showed it may be able to reach most of the United States.
Wang was scheduled to meet separately with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho on Sunday, while South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha has expressed hope that she could meet Ri also.
Wang said he hoped all parties involved could seriously consider China's dual suspension proposal, whereby North Korea halts its nuclear and missile tests and for South Korea and the United States to stop joint military drills.
"This is currently the most realistic and plausible initiative and it is the most reasonable and friendly solution," he said.
"This solution can alleviate the current tensions, it can resolve the most pressing security issues of all sides."
CODE OF CONDUCT
Southeast Asian officials were still trying to reach consensus on a customary communiqué that was supposed to have been released on Saturday, reflecting differences about how to address disputes involving Beijing in the South China Sea.
According to several diplomats from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam wanted the text to explicitly oppose the building and militarization of artificial islands in disputed waters.
China is sensitive about ASEAN including even veiled references to the expansion of its military capabilities on the islands.
The communique is usually released at the end of the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting, but Philippine foreign ministry spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said late on Saturday it would come at the end of a series of regional events in Manila. He did not explain the delay.
ASEAN's problem in agreeing the wording highlight China's growing influence at a time of uncertainty over the new U.S. administration's policy on the South China Sea and to what extent it will contest China's assertiveness.
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Bill Tarrant)