China angrily denies having the power to rein in North Korea
China hit back yesterday in unusually strong terms at repeated calls from the United States to put more pressure on North Korea, urging a halt to what it called the "China responsibility theory" and saying all parties needed to pull their weight.
US President Trump took a more conciliatory tone at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday, but has expressed some impatience that China, with its close economic and diplomatic ties to Pyongyang, is not doing enough to rein in North Korea.
That feeling has become particularly acute since Pyongyang launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that some experts believe could have the range to reach Alaska and other parts of the US West Coast.
China is North Korea's most important ally and main trading partner, including the source of critical supplies of food and energy. Historically, China has been opposed to harsh international sanctions being imposed on North Korea, at least in part because it wants to avoid the risk of a messy collapse within the fragile country that could set off a refugee crisis across the countries' 870-mile shared border.
According to US-based think-tank the Council on Foreign Relations, China-North Korea trade peaked at $6.86bn (€6bn) in 2014, having increased tenfold from 2000 to 2015 - in part as aid was replaced with trade.
Asked about calls from the United States, Japan and others for China to put more pressure on North Korea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was not China ratcheting up tension and the key to a resolution did not lie with Beijing.
"Recently, certain people, talking about the Korean-peninsula nuclear issue, have been exaggerating and giving prominence to the so-called 'China responsibility theory,'" Geng told a daily news briefing, without naming any parties.
"I think this either shows lack of a full, correct knowledge of the issue or there are ulterior motives for it, trying to shift responsibility," he added.
China had been making unremitting efforts and has played a constructive role, but all parties have to meet each other half way, Mr Geng insisted.
"Asking others to do work, but doing nothing themselves is not okay," he added.
"Being stabbed in the back is really not okay."
While China has been angered by North Korea's repeated nuclear and missile tests, it also blames the US and South Korea for worsening tension with their military exercises.
China has also been upset with the US deployment of an advanced anti-missile system in South Korea, which it says threatens its own security and will do nothing to ease tensions.
Additionally, Beijing has complained about Washington putting unilateral sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals for their dealings with North Korea.
Geng questioned how China's efforts could bear fruit if, while it tried to put out the flames, others added oil to the fire, and if, while it enforced UN resolutions, others harmed its interests.
Everyone needed to accept their responsibilities to get the North Korean issue back on the correct track of a peaceful resolution through talks, he added.
"The 'China responsibility theory' on the peninsula nuclear issue can stop," Geng added.
(Reuters, additional reporting Irish Independent)