BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Thursday a "dual suspension" proposal to handle North Korea was still the best option, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had rejected a "freeze for freeze" agreement.
North Korea's rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles has fueled a surge in regional tension and U.N.-led sanctions appear to have failed to bite deeply enough to change its behavior.
China and Russia have proposed that the United States and South Korea stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programs.
- PHOTOS: 16 Betty White quotes to brighten your day17 Pictures
- PHOTOS: It was a stylish No Pants Subway Ride 2019 in NYC19 Pictures
China formally calls the idea the "dual suspension" proposal.
Speaking on his return from Asia on Wednesday, Trump said he and Xi had rejected a "freeze for freeze" agreement, but it was not clear if he was referring to the "dual suspension" idea, which China's foreign minister announced in March.
Asked how China understood Trump's remarks, and if he agreed with Trump's characterization of what Trump said he agreed with Xi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said only through talks that addressed all sides legitimate security concerns could there be a peaceful resolution.
"We believe that the 'dual suspension' proposal is the most feasible, fair and sensible plan in the present situation," Geng told a daily news briefing.
"Not only can it relieve the present tense situation, it can also resolve all parties most pressing security concerns, and provide an opportunity and create conditions to resume talks, and find a breakthrough point to get out of trouble," he added.
The "dual suspension" is just a first step and not the end point, Geng said.
"We hope that all sides can conscientiously treat and proactively consider China's proposal, and at the same time we welcome relevant parties to put forward proposals that can benefit the promotion of a peaceful resolution for the peninsula nuclear issue."
North Korea says it needs to develop its weapons to protect itself from what it sees as U.S. aggression. It sees U.S.-South Korean military exercises as preparations for invasion.
South Korea and the United States, which has about 28,000 troops in South Korea, say their exercises are "defensive in nature".
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)