North Korea Says China `Dancing to U.S. Tune' in Rare Spat

Updated on
  • State media lashes out at ‘friendly neighbor’ after coal ban
  • Latest sign of strain between allies over Kim’s weapons tests

North Korea hit out at China in an unusual hostile commentary on state-run media, denouncing the country’s decision to ban coal imports from the isolated nation as “inhumane” and vowing to carry on developing nuclear weapons.

While the piece published Thursday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency didn’t mention the country’s Cold War ally by name, it made no effort to disguise the “friendly neighbor” in question. The commentary called the coal ban “tantamount to the enemies’ moves to bring down the social system” in North Korea, which is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“This country, styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the U.S., while defending its mean behavior with such excuses that it was meant not to have a negative impact on the living of the people in the DPRK, but to check its nuclear program,” KCNA commentary said.

North Korea’s news agency usually reserves its bellicose and defiant statements for the U.S. and its allies while sparing China, the country’s main source of food and fuel imports. An exception was a KCNA commentary published after the UN Security Council passed another round of sanctions last March, saying a “certain power has abandoned a precious friendship built with blood.”

‘Unprecedentedly Strong’

The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated with China’s Communist Party, said in an editorial on Friday that the language employed by the KCNA commentary was “unprecedentedly strong” and constituted an “incident” in bilateral relations. 

The fact that the commentary didn’t mention China by name shows Pyongyang intends to pressure Beijing without pushing too hard, the Global Times said. Nonetheless, it suggested Beijing resolutely persist in complying with the UN security council decisions.

“The North has no ability to confront China," the Global Times editorial said. “China should not take the North’s impulsive attitude seriously."

China announced Saturday that would halt all coal shipments from Kim Jong Un’s regime until the end of the year, complying with Security Council resolutions over North Korea’s nuclear program. Even if the move suggested growing frustration Beijing with Kim’s actions, Chinese officials are wary of backing him into a corner or destabilizing his regime.

New U.S. President Donald Trump promised to deal with North Korea “very strongly” after its latest missile test and called on China to get tougher. The U.S. is planning to deploy a missile-defense system called Thaad in South Korea -- a move that also potentially threatens Beijing’s military capabilities.

“It is utterly childish to think that the DPRK would not manufacture nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic rockets, if a few penny of money is cut off,” the KCNA piece said.

— With assistance by Ting Shi, and Keith Zhai

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