China, pushed again by Washington to bring North Korea to heel after last week’s artillery attack on the South, told Pyongyang their relationship had withstood international “tempests.”
China has refused to blame its ally for shelling the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, which destroyed dozens of houses and killed four people, or for the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in March.
“The traditional friendship of China and North Korea has withstood the tests of international tempests and changes and replenished itself over time,” Wu Bangguo (吳邦國), China’s chief legislator, told a visiting North Korean delegation, the People’s Daily, reported yesterday.
None of Wu’s published remarks mentioned the recent confrontation between North and South Korea, or the long-running dispute over North Korea’s nuclear activities.
China, which said it would not play favorites in the dispute, has proposed emergency talks of the six countries — the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US — involved in North Korean denuclearization talks.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said Moscow had expressed support for emergency consultations and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a CNN interview that continued dialogue was “in Russia’s interests.”
“Those who brandish weapons are seen to be justified, yet China is criticized for calling for talks. Is that justified?” Jiang said at a regular news briefing.
“I also want to say that emergency consultations are not a return to official six-party talks and should therefore not constitute a problem for the relevant parties,” she added.
Seoul said again yesterday now was not the time for talks.
Meanwhile, reports have emerged that South Korea’s spies had information indicating North Korea might attack a front-line island in August, but the intelligence chief dismissed it as a routine threat.
Lawmakers in Seoul slammed the government yesterday for the intelligence failure. The surprise revelation came the day before in an unusually candid private briefing by spy chief Won Sei-hoon.
Won told lawmakers that South Korea had intercepted North Korean military communications in August that indicated Pyongyang was preparing to attack Yeonpyeong and other islands in a disputed slice of sea that has often been the focus of North Korean aggression.
Won didn’t expect that attack to be on civilian areas and considered it a “routine threat,” according to the office of lawmaker Choi Jae-sung who attended the closed-door session.
“Our intelligence system didn’t work,” Jun Byung-hun, the chief policymaker of the main opposition Democratic Party, said in a statement.
The National Intelligence Service declined to comment.
“It’s a clear dereliction of duty by the military and intelligence authorities,” the conservative Munhwa Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial yesterday. “It frankly showed the national security system is basically in serious disorder.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff tried to play down Won’s comments, saying the intelligence was that North Korea ordered its troops to prepare to return fire should South Korea conduct artillery drills.