North Korea Lashes Out at China for Supporting Denuclearization

( – North Korea has lashed out against South Korea, Japan, and even its patron, China, over a summit in Seoul, where the three states called for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang’s rhetoric marked unusual tensions with Beijing, whose support for the regime dates back to the Korean War. China was the least insistent on denuclearization out of the three countries. The trilateral meeting released a statement stressing the importance of the peninsula’s stability and “disarmament” for all three nations but avoided referring to “complete denuclearization,” which was previously mentioned in a joint statement in 2019.

Western powers and allies have long been concerned about North Korea’s investment in nuclear power; former President George W. Bush famously included North Korea together with Iran and Iraq in what he dubbed an “axis of evil” in 2002, highlighting the alarming possibility that North Korea could acquire nuclear weapons. Japan has long been dealing with threats from North Korea.

As recently as May 2024, its government issued an emergency warning telling citizens to take cover from a missile threat sent by Pyongyang. North Korea has already fired missiles in Japan’s direction in recent years. According to North Korean state media, the country conducted underwater nuclear weapons tests in January 2024, which South Korea branded “provocation.” Pyongyang claimed, however, that it had been provoked by drills carried out by Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington. South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. increased the number of exercises in 2023 as a deterrent in response to threats from North Korea.

The new joint statement said that China, South Korea, and Japan reiterated stances on regional stability and peace, mentioning both denuclearization and abductions. North Korea had a policy during the 1970s and 1980s of abducting Japanese citizens. Some of the kidnapping victims returned to Japan, but Tokyo has been demanding a full accounting of the fates of all the victims. Pyongyang has repeatedly claimed to be “investigating” the abductions but has produced no results thus far.

Though tensions remain between Washington and Beijing over other geopolitical issues, such as Taiwan’s security and the extent of China’s support for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, the joint statement reveals China’s cautious stance on North Korea and the prospect of Pyongyang being fully equipped with weapons of mass destruction.

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