Controversy as Chinese paper publishes nuclear survival guide

Article reflects growing concern in China about neighbouring North Korea

With US-South Korean joint military exercises still ongoing, a Chinese newspaper in a province bordering North Korea has caused controversy by publishing a story about civil defence against nuclear weapons.

The Jilin Daily, which is linked to the Communist Party in the northeastern province of Jilin, ran the article that provides information on nuclear explosions and the damage they can cause.

The story spread quickly online before it was taken down, reflecting growing concern in China about the situation in North Korea escalating. These fears are particularly acute in Jilin, where an atomic test in September caused tremors similar to a 6.3-magnitude earthquake and was felt in the province.

The local air defence authority urged calm, saying it was “an ordinary educational article which should not be over-interpreted”.


The report advised on how to reduce radioactive contamination, including cleaning clothes and shoes and taking a shower to clean the mouth and nose.

Positive spin

In a subsequent editorial, the national Global Times newspaper said that even if war should break out on the Korean peninsula, South Korea, Japan and the US bases in the Asia-Pacific region were the most likely priority targets for North Korea.

“The deteriorating situation on the peninsula doesn’t mean war is unavoidable. China needs to brace for the worst scenario and nuclear-related publicity is needed. But we don’t need to panic,” the Global Times said.

China has long been an ally of North Korea, having fought together in the Korean War (1950-53), but relations have become more strained since the North accelerated its nuclear programme and China has backed sanctions by the UN Security Council.

South Korea’s foreign ministry subsequently complained about the Global Times story for saying that South Korea would be the most likely first target, saying that “unnecessary and hypothetical comments” were a risk to peace on the peninsula.

The US flew two B1B Lancer bombers over Korea as part of the ongoing military drill Vigilant ACE, the largest ever joint airborne military exercises by the two countries.

It includes two dozen stealth fighters, including six advanced F-22 Raptors, 12,000 personnel and 230 aircraft in all. North Korea said the drills would bring the region “to the brink of nuclear war”.

This week China said that it had also staged airborne drills in the region, flying reconnaissance planes, fighter jets and an early warning and control aircraft over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan near North Korea.

A People’s Liberation Army spokesperson said the aircraft had been joined by surface-to-air missile units.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing