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North Korean state media lashes out at China and suggests Trump is ignorant

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army. (Korean Central News Agency via Reuters)
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With tensions high over North Korean's nuclear program and the threat of conflict refusing to subside, North Korean state media lashed out Wednesday and Thursday. President Trump was one target, but China — a major ally and benefactor of North Korea — faced its own pointed critique.

The comments about Trump appeared first in Minju Choson, the principal newspaper of North Korea's cabinet, and were republished on the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) website. The commentary accused Trump of a lack of understanding of North Korea, calling his administration a “mere beginner insofar as its ignorance of its rival was concerned” and warning that “crimes such as regime change in anti-imperialist countries” would not influence North Korea.

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The article also said that, for the North Korean people, “it is their steadfast will to wipe out anyone mulling hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership wherever he or she may be on earth.”

The United States is often the recipient of threats and insults from Pyongyang's frequently bellicose official media outlets. During the campaign, Trump was largely spared criticism from North Korea — in one instance, a state media outlet praised him as “wise.” But since entering office, he has garnered more typically negative attention from the isolated nation's state media.

Thursday's commentary on Trump is especially noteworthy as it comes just days after Trump suggested he would be “honored” to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. NK News, a website that closely monitors North Korea's state media, notes that Pyongyang has not acknowledged Trump's remarks.

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A separate commentary published Wednesday on KCNA offered a rare, direct criticism of China, warning that “a string of absurd and reckless remarks are now heard from China every day only to render the present bad situation tenser.”

North Korea issued a direct criticism to Chinese newspapers saying its “reckless remarks” on the North’s nuclear program are testing its patience. (Video: Reuters)

The slam at China surprised many analysts. Beijing has long been known as Pyongyang's “big brother” and by far its most important ally diplomatically and economically. But their relationship has grown especially strained by North Korea's determination to continue with its nuclear program and since the assassination of Kim’s half brother, unofficially protected by China, at a Malaysian airport.

China responded to those provocations by announcing that it was suspending all coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year — potentially cutting off a major source of income for the country. Over the past few weeks, state-run publications in China have criticized North Korea repeatedly.

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In a thinly veiled criticism of China in February, KCNA warned that a country that claimed to be a “friendly neighbor” was “dancing to the tune of the U.S. while defending its mean behavior.” However, the commentary this week appeared to be the first criticism of China by name. It attempted to rebut the criticism of North Korea in the Chinese media and warned that the two countries' relationship was at stake.

“China should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience,” the KCNA commentary said, using the abbreviation of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. “China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations.”

China has faced pressure from the United States to use its relationship with North Korea to persuade the country to abandon its nuclear program. Trump said on Twitter last month that he had “great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea,” but he added that if China cannot do so, the United States and its allies will step in.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang responded Thursday to the KCNA commentary, telling reporters that “developing good neighborly and friendly cooperation with North Korea is also consistent and clear.” Meanwhile, the state newspaper Global Times accused North Korea of “grappling with some form of irrational logic over its nuclear program.”

“Beijing does not need to engage in a tit-for-tat argument with Pyongyang,” the Global Times wrote. “However, it should express its own opinions regardless of what Pyongyang has said.”

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