BEIJING: China expressed serious concern yesterday after North Korea stepped up its bellicose rhetoric and threatened to go beyond a third nuclear test in response to what it sees as “hostile” sanctions imposed after a December rocket launch.
“China is extremely concerned by the way things are going. We oppose any behaviour which may exacerbate the situation and any acts which are not beneficial towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
“We call on all the relevant sides to remain calm and exercise restraint and earnestly work hard to maintain peace and stability in the Korean peninsula,” she told a daily news briefing.
China is the North’s sole remaining major diplomatic and economic benefactor but has been showing sings of exasperation with its isolated neighbour.
One of China’s most widely read newspapers, the tabloid Global Times published by Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, said China should take a tough line and inform North Korean leaders of the consequences of their actions.
“If North Korea insists on a third nuclear test despite attempts to dissuade it, it must pay a heavy price,” it said in an editorial in both its Chinese and English-language issues.
The newspaper said China should cut its help if North Korea went ahead with the nuclear test. In 2009, China reportedly cut fuel supplies to North Korea after a nuclear test, although it was impossible to verify the reports.
“The assistance it will be able to receive from China should be reduced. The Chinese government should make this clear beforehand to shatter any illusions Pyongyang may have,” the Global Times said.
While the stridently nationalist newspaper is not considered an official mouthpiece of the Chinese government, it is nonetheless an influential publication. North Korea has vowed to conduct more rocket and nuclear tests in response to a UN censure for its launch of a long-range missile launch in December. On Tuesday, it vowed “stronger” but unspecified actions in addition to the test.