Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

China voices anger over nuke test

South Korean soldiers patrol along the barbed-wire fence near the border village of Panmunjom, which separates the two Koreas (AP)

China's foreign minister has called North Korea's ambassador in for a dressing-down and demanded his country stop making further threats, in a show of Beijing's displeasure over its ally's latest nuclear test.

Yang Jiechi delivered a "stern representation" to Ji Jae Ryong and expressed China's "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition" to the test, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

"Yang Jiechi demanded that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea side cease talk that further escalates the situation and swiftly return to the correct channel of dialogue and negotiation," the statement said. It did not say if Mr Ji made any response and calls to the North Korean embassy were not answered.

Mr Yang reiterated China's desire for peace and stability on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and said issues should be resolved within the framework of long-stalled denuclearisation talks involving North Korea, China, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

The appeals were contained in an earlier statement from the ministry calling on North Korea to abide by its denuclearisation pledge, and not to "take additional actions that could cause the situation to further deteriorate" - echoing the wording of China's responses to previous North Korean nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Mr Yang's meeting with the ambassador shows China's anger and frustration over North Korea's actions since the ministry calls in foreign diplomats only in cases of extreme pique, such as US arms sales to Taiwan or Japan's nationalisation of a disputed island group. However, neither statement pointed to any specific actions Beijing would take in response to yesterday's nuclear test, the North's third.

The meeting also followed a warning from North Korea that the test was merely its "first response" to what it called US threats, and that it would continue with unspecified "second and third measures of greater intensity" if Washington maintained its hostility.

Despite being the North's biggest source of aid and diplomatic support, Beijing has been reluctant to back more severe measures that could destabilise the North's hardline regime, which serves as a buffer between China and democratic South Korea backed by US forces.

China's patience appears to be wearing thin, however, and Beijing reacted in unusually strong terms to the North's December rocket launch by agreeing to tightened United Nations sanctions on the country, a move that brought criticism from Pyongyang.

China had repeatedly called on the North not to conduct a test, and Pyongyang's decision to proceed anyway will probably strengthen Beijing's arguments that it has little power to influence its neighbour and that harsh actions against the regime will have only a negative effect.

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