China said on Monday that the United Nations Security Council needed to pass a cautious resolution on North Korea's December rocket launch, saying that was the way to ensure regional tensions do not escalate further.
"We regret that North Korea went ahead with the launch amid widespread concern by the international community," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
"At the same time we believe that any response by the United Nations Security Council should be prudent, moderate, conducive to peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and prevent the situation from further escalating."
U.N. diplomats said on Friday that the United States and China had struck a tentative deal on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea for the launch.
The resolution would not impose new sanctions, but would call for expanding existing U.N. sanctions measures against Pyongyang, the envoys said on condition of anonymity. They added that China's support for the move would be a significant diplomatic blow to Pyongyang.
The 15-nation council could adopt the compromise resolution this week, they said.
China is the North's only major diplomatic ally, though it agreed to U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang following North Korea's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
North Korea is already banned under Security Council resolutions from developing nuclear and missile technology but has been working steadily on its nuclear test site, possibly in preparation for a third nuclear test, satellite images show.
December's successful long-range rocket launch, the first to put a satellite in orbit, was a coup for North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un.