Beijing unfazed by critique from NK media

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/24 12:13:02

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea's state-run media outlet, published a critique of China on Thursday. The bylined piece criticized China, without directly mentioning its name, for having "unhesitatingly taken inhumane steps" to suspend imports of North Korean coal, which will have a negative impact on the lives of North Korean citizens. The piece also said that Beijing's criticism of Pyongyang's recent missile test and the suspension are "dancing to the tune of the US" and tantamount to the actions of the enemy state.

The thinly veiled article refers to China as "a neighboring country, which often claims itself to be a 'friendly neighbor,'" and accused Beijing of essentially abandoning North Korea by cutting off imports of coal in compliance with UN sanctions.  "This country, styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the US 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," the article went on to say. 

Although North Korean state-run media has criticized China in the past without mentioning its name, Thursday's sharp critique with its use of strong and provocative language has set a new precedent. The article serves as an indicator that Beijing's recent announcement regarding the suspension of coal imports from North Korea until the end of 2017 has left Pyongyang reeling with pain and fury.

The view from the Global Times is that clearly Beijing should remain steadfast in its strict compliance with the sanction from the UN Security Council resolution, regardless of what any reaction Pyongyang might have.

Moreover, Beijing does not need to respond on the same scale as Pyongyang's provocative reaction, at least not in the upcoming months. Rest assured Beijing is not the least bit interested in engaging or amplifying a verbal conflict with Pyongyang.

Furthermore, Beijing will maintain its long-term policy regarding Pyongyang, and thus continue to oppose the country's nuclear program while holding on to the normal bilateral ties already in place. As always, Beijing will not yield to any unreasonable demands, nor will it apply unnecessary pressure on the country.

Given Northeast Asia's current political structure, China and North Korea will not have any real foreseeable conflicts with one another. Unlike the relationship that exists between China and the former Soviet Union, North Korea does not have the prowess to confront China on any comprehensive level. Pyongyang could make a few minor ideological moves, but they unlikely would involve large-scale maneuvers that could be deemed as geopolitical actions against China.

The article is an editorial of the Chinese edition on Friday.

Breaking the ties currently in place between Beijing and Pyongyang serves no overall interest to Pyongyang. There are scant opportunities for the Pyongyang government to essentially improve its relationship with Washington and Seoul. Even if Washington and Seoul open their arms to Pyongyang, it would be extremely risky for the country to reciprocate whole-heartedly in a similar fashion. 

Pyongyang would first have to initiate an open policy, which would only create tremendous political risk for its regime. Washington and Seoul would be unlikely to help Pyongyang minimize the risks, and it is more than likely that they would just take advantage of such a situation.

China is free to maintain its long-term policy with North Korea as long as it is willing to do so. A neighboring country that complies with UN sanctions without provoking confrontation is of much better interest to Pyongyang than one that behaves like the US. After all, a border trade is more beneficial to Pyongyang than another Demarcation Line.

As already stated, KCNA's critique does not mention China's name. The reason behind this could be that Pyongyang only wants to put pressure on Beijing. It may be hoping that China could curb its compliance with the UN sanctions to maintain the long-term friendship that has existed between the two countries.

Beijing routinely finds itself on the frontlines in terms of worldwide attention. In the same calm and steadfast fashion with which it handles the Trump administration, Beijing will always be confident when it comes to tackling tough issues with Pyongyang. Meanwhile, the fact remains that Beijing has so much power that it could easily just let this one go.

It would not faze Beijing in the least if Pyongyang's state-run news agency continues to complain about the imposed sanctions. Beijing is aware that a rational attitude from North Korea will prevail when it finally assesses China's compliance with the UN sanctions. Beijing also looks forward to the constructive ways in which North Korea will choose to restore the long-standing bilateral ties. 

At the end of the day, China and North Korea will remain friendly neighbors. There really is no other option.

The article is an editorial of the Chinese edition on Friday.

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