China on Saturday said it would not allow “troublemaking” at its doorstep by any party, in what appeared to be thinly-veiled – and unusual – criticism aimed at its ally North Korea over recently escalating tensions.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the comment in a telephone conversation with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.
While Mr. Wang reiterated China’s long-stated position that it backed a resolution to tensions on the Korean peninsula through dialogue, he also said China “opposes any provocative words and actions from any party in the region and does not allow troublemaking at the doorsteps of China”, the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.
He expressed “severe concern” over recent tensions and said China favoured resuming the stalled Six Party talks to resolve the issue through dialogue.
Although he did not explicitly criticise the North, Mr. Wang’s apparent reference to recent warnings from the country, which he described as "provocative words" and “troublemaking”, underscores recent comments by analysts who say Beijing – the North’s only ally and biggest source of financial aid – is growing increasingly exasperated with a state it has long viewed as a crucial strategic buffer to the U.S. and its allies in the region.
That consideration has, however, seen Beijing adopt a measured approach to the recent tensions. China's repeated calls in recent weeks for all parties to reduce tensions and maintain restraint have had little effect, with the North withdrawing from an armistice agreement, disconnecting a military hotline and threatening strikes against U.S. bases in the Pacific in retaliation for on-going scheduled military drills between South Korea and the U.S.
As much as China fears stability on its borders, the prospect of losing its long-time buffer is possibly a bigger concern. “If North Korea collapses and Kim is replaced by a pro-U.S. regime, it will pave the way for the U.S. to redeploy its forces in South Korea to China's northeast border, which will be a big security danger when the U.S. and China lack military mutual trust,” a commentary in the Communist Party-run Global Times warned on Friday, outlining China's worst-case scenario and the continuing importance of its ties with Pyongyang.
How far the North’s young new leader Kim Jong-un will continue with the recent rhetoric remains unclear. On Friday, the North told foreign embassies in Pyongyang to consider the possibility of evacuation if tensions escalated and war broke out.
Despite the warning, foreign missions on Saturday continued to function as normal, the Seoul-based Yonhap news agency reported. “We don’t believe there’s any foreign mission about to leave Pyongyang", a South Korean official told Yonhap. “Most foreign governments view the North Korean message as a way of ratcheting up tension on the Korean Peninsula.”