China vows friendship despite North Korean media attack

BEIJING: China vowed to remain a good neighbour to North Korea on Thursday, despite a rare and stinging critique in Pyongyang’s state media of its main diplomatic protector and economic benefactor.
Beijing offered a measured response to a signed commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which lashed out at China and said it should be grateful to Pyongyang for its protection.
The bylined article warned of “grave consequences” if North Korea’s patience is tested further.
China’s Global Times newspaper retorted that the nuclear-armed North was in the grip of “some form of irrational logic” over its weapons programmes.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang took a conciliatory tone when asked about KCNA’s commentary at a press briefing, saying Beijing has a consistent position of “developing good neighbourly and friendly cooperation” with North Korea.
Geng, however, also said China was “firmly committed” to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula through dialogue and consultation.
Beijing and Pyongyang have a relationship forged in the blood of the Korean War, and the Asian giant remains its wayward neighbour’s main provider of aid and trade.
But ties have begun to fray in recent years, with China increasingly exasperated by the North’s nuclear antics and fearful of a regional crisis.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has yet to visit Beijing, more than five years after taking power.
The media spat is a sign of the level to which ties between the two have deteriorated.
KCNA regularly carries vivid denunciations of the US, Japan, and the South Korean authorities, but it is rare for it to turn its ire on China.
Beijing regularly calls for parties to avoid raising tensions — remarks that can apply to both Washington and Pyongyang — and in February it announced the suspension of coal imports from the North for the rest of the year, a crucial foreign currency earner for the authorities.
Chinese state-run media have called for harsher sanctions against the North in the event of a fresh atomic test, urged Pyongyang to “avoid making mistakes”, and spoken of the need for it to abandon its nuclear programmes. 
— AFP