BEIJING • In response to US President Donald Trump's 48-word tweet at the weekend accusing China of failing to tame its neighbour and long-time ally North Korea, Beijing has issued its own rebuke to Mr Trump.
In a cutting editorial of 1,000 Chinese characters issued late on Monday from Xinhua, the official news agency, it said: "Trump is quite a personality, and he likes to tweet.
"But emotional venting cannot become a guiding policy for solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula," it said, referring to the divided Korean peninsula, in the editorial widely displayed on Chinese news websites.
The United States, it said, "must not continue spurning responsibility" for the volatile stand-off with North Korea, "and even less should it stab China in the back".
The unusually personal nature of the editorial, together with comments delivered earlier that day by China's ambassador to the United Nations in New York, show that North Korea is becoming the main dispute threatening to tear at Mr Trump's initially friendly relationship with his Chinese counterpart, Mr Xi Jinping.
"I am very disappointed in China," Mr Trump declared on Twitter on Sunday, after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of UN sanctions.
Despite China's big trade surplus with the US, he continued in a second tweet, "they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk".
China's rebuke of Mr Trump did not use exclamation marks. But the Xinhua editorial broke with Beijing's usual public reticence when Mr Trump has taken China to task over trade imbalances, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan and other sources of tension.
"Taking out this outrage on China is clearly finding the wrong target," it said, warning such broadsides could be dangerous.
"What the peninsula needs is immediately stamping out the fire, not adding kindling or, even worse, pouring oil on the flames," Xinhua said.
The tensions could, it said, "evolve into a localised conflict, or even the outbreak of war, with unthinkable repercussions".
Chinese diplomats and the state news media have consistently argued that Washington and its allies should not rely so much on China to defuse tensions created by North Korea's growing nuclear weapons and missile capabilities.
Last Friday, North Korea tested a ballistic missile that experts have said could have the range to hit California.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has turned up pressure on China to help isolate and cajole North Korea. "China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability," he said in a statement after the launch.
The US conducted a test of its own intercontinental ballistic missile system yesterday, a move that is bound to raise questions about the Trump administration's intentions.
It was planned a day after Mr Tillerson said the US was not seeking regime change in North Korea and would be willing to talk to Pyongyang.