N. Korea warns China of ‘grave consequences,’ Beijing still wants ‘friendly relations’

North Korea has warned China of “grave consequences” if it “chops down” relations between the two countries. Despite the angry outburst, Beijing says it wants to maintain friendly relations with its neighbor.

In a commentary late Wednesday, North Korean state news agency KCNA took aim at a “string of absurd and reckless remarks” from Chinese media towards Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

“The DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear program which is as precious as its own life, no matter how valuable the friendship is,” the editorial said.

“China should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK's patience… [and] had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations,” it continued.

The remarks were in response to commentaries published in China’s People's Daily and Global Times newspapers, which called for tougher sanctions over the North’s nuclear program.

KCNA said that Chinese state media calls for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program were a “wanton violation of the independent and legitimate rights, dignity and supreme interests” of North Korea and constitute “an undisguised threat to an honest-minded neighboring country which has a long history and tradition of friendship.”

The People’s Daily and Global Times both responded to Pyongyang in Thursday commentaries, with the latter accusing North Korea of “irrational logic over its nuclear program.”

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated on Thursday that while China’s position on North Korea’s nuclear program is “consistent and clear,” so is its desire to maintain a good relationship with Pyongyang.

“China’s position on developing friendly, good-neighborly relations with North Korea is also consistent and clear,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.

He added that China is devoted to the denuclearization of the peninsula, maintaining peace and security, and resolving the issue through talks.

Although Beijing has a good relationship with Pyongyang and is its major economic lifeline, Beijing has become increasingly impatient with North Korea’s nuclear program, which it fears could lead to a regional crisis.

The US has been urging China to put more pressure on Pyongyang, in an effort to stop North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

US President Donald Trump has held calls with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the North Korea issue, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said that Washington should test China’s commitment to reining in its neighbor by “leaning in hard” on Xi.

In addition, diplomats cited by Reuters say Washington and Beijing are negotiating a possible strong UN Security Council response – such as new sanctions – to North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches in defiance of Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, China has repeatedly urged for the US and all other parties involved in the North Korean standoff to exercise restraint and “stop irritating each other.”