MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia and China have said they are concerned about rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea warned that shooting down a long-range missile it plans to test would be an act of war.
Pyongyang said on March 9 it had put its armed forces on full combat readiness in response to the start of annual military exercises by U.S. and South Korean troops, which it condemned as a provocation.
The reclusive state also said it planned to test-fire a long-range Taepodong-2 missile and warned any attempt to shoot it down would amount to an act of war. The missile is designed to fly as far as Alaska, but has never successfully flown.
"Both sides expressed concern about the worsening situation on the Korean Peninsula," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on March 10.
The ministers called on those involved "to show restraint and composure, and to refrain from any actions that could undermine security and stability in this region," it said.
Long-running six-party talks between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States on North Korea's nuclear programs have stalled, with implementation of an initial energy-for-disarmament deal stuck on Pyongyang's refusal to allow nuclear material to be taken abroad for tests.
Moscow and Beijing are crucial to diplomatic efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear program, because they maintain closer ties with the government in Pyongyang than the other participants in the talks.
"Russia and China want all contentious questions to be resolved peacefully by political and diplomatic means via consultations and negotiations," the ministry statement said.
North Korea, which has tried to brush aside speculation about the health of leader Kim Jong Il, has repeatedly warned in recent weeks it could reduce South Korea to ashes in anger at Seoul's attempt to link aid to the North's nuclear disarmament.
It has complained that aid is not being delivered as promised.
The conservative South Korean government has cut back the flow of aid, making it conditional on the North moving on pledges to stop trying to build nuclear weapons.
The North has said it is preparing to launch a satellite and has the right to do so as part of its peaceful space program. North Korea is barred from test-firing its ballistic missiles under United Nations sanctions.