SEOUL • North Korean and Chinese media were at loggerheads yesterday after Pyongyang's official news agency issued a rare and stinging denunciation of its chief ally and diplomatic backer.
The rival texts yesterday were a sign of the level to which ties between the two - forged in the blood of the Korean War - have deteriorated. Ties began to fray in recent years, with China increasingly exasperated by the North's nuclear antics and fearful of a regional crisis.
Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) regularly carries vivid denunciations of the United States, Japan and South Korea, but it is rare for it to turn its ire on China.
Chinese state-run media has also lately begun to call for harsher sanctions against the North in the event of a fresh nuclear test, and urged Pyongyang to "avoid making mistakes", as well as spoken of the need for it to end its nuclear programmes.
The latest KCNA commentary denounced the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, and the party-linked Global Times, as having "raised lame excuses for the base acts of dancing to the tune of the US".
The DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear programme which is as precious as its own life.
KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY, the official news agency in Pyongyang, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Pyongyang obviously is grappling with some form of irrational logic over its nuclear programme.
GLOBAL TIMES, the Communist Party-linked Chinese daily, on North Korea's criticism and warning to China.
Chinese suggestions that the North give up its weapons crossed a "red line" and were "ego-driven theory based on big-power chauvinism", said the article, bylined "Kim Chol" - believed to be a pseudonym.
"The DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear programme which is as precious as its own life," it said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Pyongyang had acted as a buffer between Beijing and Washington since the Korean War in the 1950s and "contributed to protecting (the) peace and security of China", it said, adding that its ally should "thank the DPRK for it".
Beijing should not try to test the limits of the North's patience, it said, warning: "China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of DPRK-China relations."
In its response yesterday, the Global Times - which can sometimes stridently espouse what it sees as China's interests - dismissed the KCNA article as "nothing more than a hyper-aggressive piece completely filled with nationalistic passion".
"Pyongyang obviously is grappling with some form of irrational logic over its nuclear programme," it added.
Beijing "should also make Pyongyang aware that it will react in unprecedented fashion if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test", it said.
"The more editorials KCNA publishes, the better Chinese society will be able to understand how Pyongyang thinks, and how hard it is to solve this nuclear issue," the Global Times said.
Asked about the KCNA commentary yesterday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said China wanted to be good neighbours with North Korea.
The spokesman, Mr Geng Shuang, said China's position was consistent and clear. "China's position on developing friendly, good-neighbourly relations with North Korea is also consistent and clear," he told reporters.
He added that China was unswervingly devoted to the denuclearisation of the peninsula, and maintaining peace and security and resolving the issue through talks.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks, driven by concern about continuing missile tests by the North and also that it might conduct its sixth nuclear test, which are in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.