Bei­jing of­fers mea­sured re­sponse af­ter Py­ongyang lashes out

New Straits Times - - Front Page -

CHINA vowed to re­main a good neigh­bour to North Korea yes­ter­day, de­spite a rare and sting­ing cri­tique in Py­ongyang’s state me­dia of its main diplo­matic pro­tec­tor and eco­nomic bene­fac­tor.

Bei­jing of­fered a mea­sured re­sponse to a signed com­men­tary car­ried by the Korean Cen­tral News Agency (KCNA), which lashed out at China and said it should be grate­ful to Py­ongyang for its pro­tec­tion.

The by­lined ar­ti­cle warned of of “grave con­se­quences” if North Korea’s pa­tience is tested fur­ther.

China’s Global Times news­pa­per re­torted that the nu­cle­ar­armed North was in the grip of “some form of ir­ra­tional logic” over its weapons pro­grammes.

But Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang took a con­cil­ia­tory tone when asked about KCNA’s com­men­tary at a press brief­ing, say­ing Bei­jing has a con­sis­tent po­si­tion of “de­vel­op­ing good neigh­bourly and friendly co­op­er­a­tion” with North Korea.

Geng, how­ever, also said China was “firmly com­mit­ted” to the de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of the Korean penin­sula through di­a­logue and con­sul­ta­tion.

Bei­jing and Py­ongyang have a re­la­tion­ship forged in the blood of the Korean War, and the Asian gi­ant re­mains its way­ward neigh­bour’s main provider of aid and trade.

But ties have be­gun to fray in re­cent years, with China in­creas­ingly ex­as­per­ated by the North’s nu­clear an­tics and fear­ful of a re­gional cri­sis. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has yet to visit Bei­jing, more than five years af­ter tak­ing power.

The me­dia spat is a sign of the level to which ties be­tween the two have de­te­ri­o­rated. KCNA reg­u­larly car­ries vivid de­nun­ci­a­tions of the United States, Ja­pan and the South Korean au­thor­i­ties, but it is rare for it to turn its ire on China.

Bei­jing reg­u­larly calls for par­ties to avoid rais­ing ten­sions – re­marks that can ap­ply to both Washington and Py­ongyang – and in Fe­bru­ary it an­nounced the sus­pen­sion of coal im­ports from the North for the rest of the year, a cru­cial for­eign cur­rency earner for the au­thor­i­ties.

Chi­nese state-run me­dia have called for harsher sanc­tions against the North in the event of a fresh atomic test, urged Py­ongyang to “avoid mak­ing mis­takes”, and spo­ken of the need for it to aban­don its nu­clear pro­grammes.

The KCNA com­men­tary de­nounced the Peo­ple’s Daily, the of­fi­cial mouth­piece of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party, and the Global Times, which some­times re­flects the think­ing of the lead­er­ship, as hav­ing “raised lame ex­cuses for the base acts of danc­ing to the tune of the US”. AFP

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