North Korea has become an increasing threat to China, according to an online commentary by the state-run People’s Daily overseas edition, which compared the Korean peninsula’s instability with Syria’s political turmoil.
An online opinion piece by the Daily yesterday said it was time for North Korea to rethink its nuclear weapon strategy as it might eventually jeopardise Pyongyang’s stability. The piece was later deleted.
It also said ties between both countries had worsened, especially since China’s Ministry of Commerce rolled out sanctions supporting the United Nation’s call to stop imports of coal, iron ore, gold, titanium and rare earths, and exports of a range of products, including jet fuel, to North Korea. These moves are likely to have an impact on Pyongyang within six months to a year.
The UN sanctions aim to starve North Korea of funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes after Pyongyang conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket in February.
The opinion piece also cited recent comments by a North Korea think tank, which referred to China as “a vanity-driven nation bowing down to the US” at the cost of losing a precious friendship forged in blood.
The commentary said Pyongyang lacked the capability and determination to launch a war, while domestically it was using anti-US sentiment to unite its people.
“What seems to be the most dangerous and critical timing is often the least likely [time] for a war to break out,” the article said. It criticised North Korea for failing to trust China and Russia to ensure its security and for instead placing its faith on security through nuclear weapons.
It also compared the Korean peninsula’s instability with Syria’s political unrest.
“Syria’s turmoil came about as the result of a population of only 20 million or so people,” it said. “Just imagine what it would be like for the Korean peninsula with [about] 80 million?
“With inadequate economic, military, technological and management capability, should there be any nuclear leaks, like those that occurred in Japan [at Fukushima] ... what would happen to northeastern China’s security?” Cui Zhiying, a Korean affairs expert at Shanghai’s Tongji University, said bilateral ties between China and North Korea would not deteriorate completely.
“North Korea still relies heavily on China via normal economic development despite UN sanctions and China will continue to uphold good neighbourly relations with North Korea,” Cui said.
It warned that developing nuclear weapons would trigger a wave of international condemnation of the North Korean regime, not recognition.