By Michael Martina
BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Thursday welcomed comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the United States does not seek to topple the North Korean government and would like dialogue with Pyongyang at some point, saying China had always supported talks.
Tillerson reiterated that Washington sought to persuade North Korea to give up its missile and nuclear weapons programs through peaceful pressure.
The United States does not seek regime change, the collapse of the regime, an accelerated reunification of the peninsula or an excuse to send the U.S. military into North Korea, Tillerson said.
Speaking to reporters, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China "attached great importance" to Tillerson's remarks and his reiteration of what Wang called the "Four Nos" principle.
"We hope the U.S. side can put this 'Four Nos' principle into actual policy towards North Korea," Wang said.
The United States has recently been paying more attention to security issues on the Korean peninsula, and China has always believed security is the key to resolving the problem, he added.
North Korea says it needs a strong military deterrent to prevent a hostile United States from attacking it.
China hopes all sides can meet each other halfway and through talks find a way of resolving each others security concerns as this is the key for a resolution, Wang said.
In a separate statement sent to Reuters regarding Tillerson's remarks, the foreign ministry said it had always supported dialogue between the United States and North Korea.
On Saturday, Pyongyang said it had conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that proved its ability to strike the United States.
Tillerson, who will also attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, is expected to press China and other regional nations to take tougher action against North Korea.
China has signed up for increasingly tough United Nations sanctions against North Korea, but has also pushed for a resumption of dialogue and de-escalation by both Pyongyang and Washington.
Tillerson's remarks showed "courage", said the state-run Global Times newspaper, which is usually known for its nationalistic bent.
"Many Americans would think Tillerson is showing weakness, but we see his statement as the most courageous expression from Washington regarding the Korean peninsula issue," it said in an editorial on Thursday.
"While (Washington) exerts pressure on North Korea, it should leave some alternatives for Pyongyang and make it believe that abandoning its nuclear and missile programs will do more good than insisting on this path."
Wang also urged all parties not to heighten tension on the Korean peninsula and said China had already clearly condemned North Korea's latest missile test.
"Regarding North Korea's recent missile launch, once again in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, China has already clearly expressed our opposition," Wang said.
"At the same time, we also call on all parties not to take any actions that will lead to an escalation in tensions."
(Writing by Philip Wen and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez)