TOKYO (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May urged China on Wednesday to do more to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile development.
The British leader's comments, made while she was en route to Japan, were in response to North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday. The missile launch, which was met with wide condemnation, came less than a month after the U.N. Security Council imposed its toughest-yet sanctions on the North.
May told reporters on her plane that "we see China as being the key" in the effort to bring pressure on North Korea, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rebuffed May's remarks, saying that unlike its critics, Beijing sought not only to impose sanctions on North Korea but also to promote talks aimed at preserving peace on the peninsula.
"We also noted that some countries stabbed in the others' back while shaking hands with them," Hua said at a regular briefing with reporters.
"Those countries just sit back and leave others to find a way out. We don't think that is an appropriate attitude of a responsible country," Hua said.
May arrived Wednesday in Japan for a three-day visit that is expected to focus on Brexit, trade and security.
She started her visit in Kyoto, the ancient Japanese capital, where she attended a traditional tea ceremony and had dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
During their dinner, May and Abe discussed North Korea's missile launch and agreed to cooperate in urging China to step up pressure on the North, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.
May's official meetings with Abe and other Japanese officials are scheduled for Thursday in Tokyo.
It is May's first visit to Japan since becoming prime minister in July 2016.
A delegation of British business leaders is accompanying May. A statement from her office said the delegation would showcase "the shared confidence in the U.K.-Japan economic relationship as we leave the EU, and the potential for future growth."
Some Japanese companies with factories in the United Kingdom are worried about their ability to export to the rest of Europe after Brexit. Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, and triggered the formal two-year exit process in March.