China Hits Back At Criticism Over North Korea

China on Tuesday hit back at the United States and its Asian allies for their refusal to talk to North Korea, saying dialogue was the only way to calm escalating tension on the divided Korean peninsula.

China took a more belligerent tone a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted her South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Washington, calling a report that it was shielding Pyongyang's nuclear program an ""irresponsible accusation.""

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg will lead a U.S. delegation to China in the next week to try to persuade Beijing to put more pressure on Pyongyang despite Chinese fears that this may destabilize North Korea, a U.S. official said.

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have been lukewarm toward Beijing's proposal for emergency talks between the six regional powers, worried they could be perceived as rewarding Pyongyang for its deadly attack on a South Korean island two weeks ago.

They want China to bring its ally North Korea to heel and hope that through their joint calls Beijing -- which has traditionally resisted outside pressure on its policies -- may be persuaded to act.

""The responsibility of maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia should be shouldered by all parties in the region,"" China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news conference.

""All parties are stakeholders. We call on the parties to positively respond to our proposals to resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiation.""

""We need a clear indication from North Korea that it understands that this pattern of provoking and then hoping that people will reward it to stop the provocations is not one that we are going to sanction,"" Steinberg, Clinton's principal deputy, said on Tuesday."