15:47 GMT10 April 2021
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    A series of articles in Chinese media which said that North Korea’s nuclear forces pose a threat to China’s national interests invited angry backlash from Pyongyang.

    The official Central News Agency warned that Beijing “should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience,” by joining US attempts to force North Korea to scrap its nuclear and missile program.

    The testy statement followed a series of commentaries and editorials in the Chinese media criticizing Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and calling to cut off oil supplies if the North proceeded with its nuclear tests.

    In a clear sign of its displeasure, China has suspended all coal imports from North Korea.

    North Korea’s direct criticism of Beijing is all the more surprising since China accounts for a hefty 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade and almost 100 percent of the country’s oil imports.

    However, contrary to US expectations, the current spat between China and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program will be short-lived and will not seriously complicate relations between the two countries, several Russian experts told Sputnik.

    “We still think that this spat won’t last long. It could be a tactical move by Beijing to show that it takes the situation seriously and is sending certain signals to Pyongyang. I don’t expect any further complications between China and North Korea,” Alexander Vorontsov, an expert at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Moscow, told Sputnik China.

    As if to prove the existence of a strong bond between the two countries, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Chinese corporate and government sources, that in the course of the past decade, a Chinese state-owned company had a joint venture with a North Korean company under sanctions for involvement in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

    According to the newspaper, China’s state-owned Limac Corporation and North Korea’s Ryonbong General Corporation, blacklisted by the US in 2004, set up a joint venture in 2008 to mine tantalum, niobium and zirconium, minerals which could be used in the manufacturing of nuclear reactors and missiles.

    In a report published in February 2017, UN experts insisted that North Korea had been getting missile components and small planes from China and had been running a number of front firms to get access to the global financial system. 

    In an interview with Sputnik, Konstantin Asmolov, a researcher at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, said that much as China was trying to avoid any possible fallout from North Korean nuclear tests, it would never tolerate any actions to bring about a regime change in North Korea.

    “No matter how Pyongyang might be slighted by Beijing’s criticism, it still cancelled a nuclear test it planned to have in April. Some people say that Beijing has rolled back its diplomatic support for Pyongyang, but its support for Pyongyang’s offer to end its missile tests in exchange for the US and South Korea scrapping their joint military drills hasn’t gone anywhere, just like the friendship and mutual assistance treaty it has with the North,” Asmolov noted.

    Since the beginning of 2016, North Korea has carried out a number of missile launches and nuclear tests, prompting worldwide criticism and triggering tensions on the Korean peninsula.

    The US said that it would ramp up economic pressure on Pyongyang, but warned that a military option remained on the table.

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    North Korea Fires Back at Beijing’s Criticism, Accuses China of Betrayal
    China Calls on US, North Korea to Stop ‘Reckless Provocation’
    Ryonbong Corporation, Limac Corporation, Institute of Far Eastern Studies, UN, Alexander Vorontsov, Konstantin Asmolov, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), China
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