North Korea Taunts China as ‘U.S. Vassal Force’ After Halt of Coal Shipments

Xi Jinping and Jim Jong-un
Jason Lee/Reuters / KNS/AFP/Getty

North Korea has lashed out against its most prominent ally in the international community, China, in a commentary decrying its “friendly neighbor” for adhering to United Nations sanctions and halting the import of coal from the communist hermit kingdom.

While the opinion article on the Korean Central News Agency’s website does not mention China by name, North Korea only has one “friendly neighbor” and has reason to fear that its largest trading partner will cease being an economic lifeline for a government isolated from the world. In attacking China, the article teases Beijing as operating under U.S. control, as an inferior power to the United States.

China announced this week that it would no longer accept coal imported from North Korea for the remainder of 2017.

“This country, styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the U.S. while defending its mean behavior 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 program,” the article reads. It goes on to accuse China of “inhumane steps such as totally blocking foreign trade related to the improvement of people’s living standard under the plea of the UN ‘resolutions on sanctions’ devoid of legal ground.” Later, the author accuses the “friendly neighbor” of “moves to bring down the social system in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].”

North Korea claims its allies are saying that “a big neighboring country is imposing sanctions on the DPRK to curry favor with the U.S.” without naming any allies that have made any public statements on the matter. North Korea traditionally relies on support for nations such as Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela for support on the international stage.

The article concludes: “It is utterly childish to think that the DPRK would not manufacture nuclear weapons and inter-continental ballistic rockets if a few penny of money is cut off.”

Chinese state media appears to be responding in two ways: ginning up anti-North Korean sentiment with a report claiming Chinese people are less inclined to support North Korea because of its nuclear weapon program and asserting that North Korea is not China’s problem, but U.S. President Donald Trump’s.

“In recent years, North Korea’s image in China has been damaged seriously due to its repeated nuclear tests and missile launches which is destabilizing for the region,” Global Times report noted this week, quoting various Chinese “man on the street” interviews and claiming, “North Korea is not seen as a ‘close ally’ on Chinese social media anymore,” but as a “troublemaker” that “causes embarrassment” to China.

In another column urging the reopening of six-party talks with North Korea, the Global Times — typically the most belligerent of the English-language Beijing-controlled publications — vehemently rejects the idea that China has a major role to play in remedying the situation on the Korean peninsula. “Those who believe Beijing should do more or that Beijing holds the key to solving the North Korean nuclear issue are either ignorant or calculating strategists,” the column argues. “They are the ones who complicate the issue.”

Instead, the author suggests that the United States and South Korea should either go to war with North Korea or establish a “turning point in coexistence.” “U.S. President Donald Trump even wants to improve ties with a strategic adversary as Russia. North Korea is comparatively only an imaginary enemy,” the article concludes. President Trump has repeatedly rejected multilateral talks as an effective approach to diplomacy.

While China insists that it does not have a major role to play against the fellow Communist dictatorship in North Korea, its decision to cut off coal imports from Pyongyang indicates a change in temperament in Beijing towards Kim Jong-un. North Korea tested a long-range missile in the past month, once again violating international sanctions, and is now embroiled in a murder mystery after Kim Jong-nam, the dictator’s half-brother, was killed at Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian authorities have reason to believe the North Korean government planned the crime. Both deeds have brought concern and embarrassment to the halls of power in Beijing.

The Global Times insists that the Kim assassination had nothing to do with the new sanctions this week, citing Chinese “experts” who claim such a connection is “ludicrous.” Yet the homicide appears to be creating significant tensions in the region, as North Korea has repeatedly accused Malaysia of conspiring with South Korea to blame Pyongyang for the killing.

North Korea has refused to accept the results of a Malaysian autopsy, calling it “illegal and immoral,” and demanded the nation allow North Korea to send its own investigators to solve the mystery. In doing so, Ambassador Kang Chol said he could “not trust” any Malaysian policework. “The statement by the ambassador was totally uncalled for. It was diplomatically rude. But Malaysia will stand firm,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in response.


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