North Korean authorities are warning residents not to count on China for support as international sanctions continue to put pressure on Pyongyang to end its illicit nuclear weapons program, sources in the increasingly isolated country say.
The warning, which was sent out earlier this month by the Central Committee of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party, was phrased indirectly as an instruction not to trust “surrounding countries” in a reference widely understood to refer to China, sources said.
“Residents are aware that the ‘surrounding country’ the Central Committee refers to is China,” a source in North Hamgyong province, bordering China, told RFA’s Korean Service.
“People don’t understand the Committee’s decision to call China an untrustworthy country, since the people’s lives depend so much on its help,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
China, while recently ending imports of North Korean seafood, lead ore, zinc, and other now-banned products in line with U.N. sanctions, continues to supply the country with oil, and the smuggling of sanctioned goods continues across the border.
The warning not to trust China accompanied a directive also urging North Korea’s military and civilian population to “prepare for war,”
“The order was delivered to all military bases and to the people’s defense forces that began winter training early this month,” he said.
“We have already seen many directives for the Party, the military, and our citizens to prepare for a war, but it is very unusual for them to say we should not trust surrounding countries,” he said.
Many North Koreans deplore the new move to distance their country from China, a strong North Korean ally for almost 70 years, the source said, adding, “They say that [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] just wants to be a stubborn loner.”
Speaking separately, a second source in North Hamgyong said that North Korean leaders meanwhile continue to criticize South Korean policy initiatives reaching out to the isolated North.
“They say that these appear to emphasize the need for talks and reconciliation for peaceful national unification, but are actually just tricks designed to collapse our political system.”
“The Central Committee has stressed that even if the outer political situation changes, or if a new party takes power in South Korea, the fact remains that what is at stake is a confrontation between capitalism and socialism,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“They also say that we need to wake up from the delusion that other countries will give us a hand.”
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.