World

China slams West over its role in N. Korean impasse

BEIJING North Korea's latest nuclear test is likely to pile more pressure on China to take tough action against its neighbour, but Beijing already doubts economic sanctions will work and says it is not solely responsible for reining in Pyongyang.

China has lambasted the West and its allies over recent weeks for promoting the "China responsibility theory" for North Korea, and been upset by Seoul and Washington's own military drills that Beijing says have done nothing to cool tensions.

"The United States has to play its own role and should not be blindly putting pressure on China to try and squeeze North Korea," said Mr Ruan Zongze, a former Chinese diplomat now with the China Institute of International Studies, a Foreign Ministry-affiliated think-tank.

While the seriousness of yesterday's nuclear test means China will likely support tough new action, including possibly cutting off oil supplies, China will make it clear that others need to step up too, Mr Ruan added.

The Global Times, a state-run newspaper, also attacked British and Australian leaders for calling on China to do more, especially Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's suggestion that China should cut off oil supplies to North Korea.

REFUGEES

China's big fear has always been that cutting North Korea off completely could lead to its collapse, unleashing a wave of refugees into China's rust-belt provinces in the north-east.

One Beijing-based Western diplomat, speaking late last week before the nuclear test, said China had cooperated with the United States on sanctions to a certain degree, in order not to give Washington a pretext for a military strike. "But they won't go far enough to have an impact on North Korea's determination to become a nuclear power," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

China has not publicly said it will back new sanctions.

However, Zhang Liangui, a North Korea expert at the Central Party School, which trains rising officials, said Pyongyang had repeatedly said that it would not give up its nuclear weapons programme.

While sanctions were unlikely to prove useful, the chances of resolving the Korean peninsula crisis through talks were also "miniscule, if not already non-existent". - REUTERS

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