North Korea hits out at China for ‘mean behaviour’

Tension grows between cold war allies after China bans coal imports from Pyongyang

File photograph of North Koreans  and a pile of coal close to the border with China, viewed from the Chinese city of Dandong. China has banned coal imports from its neighbour. Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty

File photograph of North Koreans and a pile of coal close to the border with China, viewed from the Chinese city of Dandong. China has banned coal imports from its neighbour. Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty

 

As North Korea watched relations with Malaysia deteriorate over accusations it assassinated Kim Jong-un’s potential rival, the isolated nation has also been criticising its closest friend in the region, China, after Beijing banned coal imports over its weapons programme.

A commentary on the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not mention North Korea’s cold war ally by name, but accused a “friendly neighbour” of “inhumane” and “mean” behaviour after China announced it had halted all coal shipments from North Korea until the end of the year, complying with UN Security Council sanctions against Kim Jong-un’s government.

“This country, styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the US, while defending its mean behaviour 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 programme,” KCNA commentary said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

China is North Korea’s key economic benefactor and treaty ally, supplying most of its food and fuel, and is often described by both sides as being “as close as lips and teeth”, but ties have frayed following North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, which have brought undue attention to the Korean peninsula and left Beijing open to charges from Washington that it is not doing enough to rein in its ally.

“It has unhesitatingly taken inhumane steps such as totally blocking foreign trade related to the improvement of people’s living standards under the plea of the UN resolutions on sanctions devoid of legal grounds,” the KCNA said.

Trump reaction

US president Donald Trump said he was “very angry” about the North’s latest missile test, promising to deal with North Korea “very strongly” and urging China to get tougher.

The US is planning to deploy a missile-defence system called THAAD in South Korea in response to the nuclear programme, in a move that has angered Beijing because the system can also work against its missiles.

The Chinese reaction came in a piece in the Global Times newspaper, a state-run organ that is not the official voice of the communist government but gives a fair indication of government thinking.

The paper said Beijing should stick to its enactment of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

“Unlike the relationship that exists between China and the former Soviet Union, North Korea does not have the power to confront China on any comprehensive level,” Global Times said.

“At the end of the day, China and North Korea will remain friendly neighbours. There really is no other option,” it said.