An editorial published in the overseas edition of China’s state-run People’s Daily criticized North Korea and urged it to reconsider its nuclear weapons program or face jeopardizing its stability. The now-deleted post even questioned Pyongyang’s military capability, and compared tensions in the Korean Peninsula to the chaos in Syria.
“Syria’s turmoil came about as the result of a population of only 20 million or so people,” it read. “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?”
On Saturday, North Korea said it had successfully tested an engine that would increase the range of its ballistic missiles. Testing of these missiles, which could be mounted with nuclear warheads, is prohibited under United Nations sanctions.
The KCNA news agency claimed the engine would “guarantee” North Korea’s ability to strike the US.
In February, North Korea launched a long-range rocket to put a satellite into orbit. In January, Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear-weapon test to the condemnation of several governments including Beijing.
The opinion piece stressed that Sino-Pyongyang relations had worsened since the nuclear test. In a rare move, China delivered new sanctions supporting the United Nation’s call to ban imports of coal, iron ore, gold, titanium and rare earths. The ban also applied to a range of products including jet fuel.
The sanctions are aimed at depleting North Korea’s capability of funding its ballistic-missile program. Analysts believe Pyongyang will start feeling the pressure from these sanctions within six months to a year.
However, some experts say Chinese and North Korean relations aren’t going to collapse any time soon.
Cui Zhiying, a Korean affairs expert at Shanghai’s Tongji University, explained in an interview with South China Morning Post.
“North Korea still relies heavily on China via normal economic development despite UN sanctions and China will continue to uphold good neighborly relations with North Korea.”