The US called on China to end “business as usual” with North Korea, while South Korea yesterday unleashed a high-decibel propaganda barrage across the border in retaliation for its rival’s nuclear test.
The broadcasts, in rolling bursts from walls of loudspeakers at 11 locations along the heavily militarized border, blare rhetoric critical of the North Koran regime as well as “K-pop” music, ratcheting up tension between the rivals.
Wednesday’s nuclear test angered both the US and China, which was not given prior notice, although the US government and weapons experts doubt Pyongyang’s claim that the device it set off was a hydrogen bomb.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday said he had made clear in a telephone call with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) that China’s approach to North Korea had not succeeded.
“China had a particular approach that it wanted to make that we agreed and respected to give them space to implement that,” Kerry told reporters. “Today, in my conversation with the Chinese, I made it very clear that has not worked and we cannot continue business as usual.”
China is North Korea’s main economic and diplomatic backer, although relations between the two Cold War allies have cooled in recent years.
China said after the call with Kerry that it was willing to communicate with all parties, including the US.
“Wang Yi stressed that China has staunchly dedicated itself to the goal of the peninsula’s denuclearization and to maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs had asked for a phone call with Wang right after North Korea announced on Wednesday that it had tested a hydrogen bomb, the South’s Yonhap News Agency said.
However, the call had been delayed due to China’s “internal scheduling,” it said, citing an unidentified official.
The South Korean broadcasts are considered an insult by the isolated North, which has in the past threatened military strikes to stop them.
The last time South Korea deployed the loudspeakers — in retaliation for a landmine blast in August that wounded two South Korean soldiers — it led to an armed standoff and exchange of artillery fire.
“We urge South Korea to exercise restraint,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said during a visit to Japan after the South resumed the broadcasts. “It is simply rising to the bait.”
The sound from the speakers can carry for 10km into North Korea during the day and more than twice that at night, Yonhap reported.
A male announcer could be heard from South Korea saying that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his wife wear clothes costing thousands of dollars.
Another message said Kim’s policy to boost both the economy and its nuclear program was unrealistic.
North Korea yesterday boosted troop deployments in front-line units, while South Korea raised its military readiness to the highest level at locations near the loudspeakers.
The South vowed to retaliate against any attack on the equipment, raised its cybersecurity alert and canceled tours of the demilitarized zone on the border.
Kerry said he and Wang agreed to work closely to determine what measures could be taken given increasing concern about the nuclear test.
The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, said it was unfair to expect China alone to bring about change in Pyongyang.
“There is no hope to put an end to the North Korean nuclear conundrum if the US, South Korea and Japan do not change their policies toward Pyongyang ,” it said in an editorial.
“Solely depending on Beijing’s pressure to force the North to give up its nuclear plan is an illusion,” it said.
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