China Angered, Residents 'Shaken' by North Korean Nuke Test


2016-01-06
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korea-nuketest-jan062015.jpg Passengers at a railroad station in Seoul watch a news report about North Korea's claimed test of a hydrogen bomb, Jan. 6, 2016.
AFP

Beijing hit out on Wednesday at North Korea's claim it had detonated a hydrogen bomb, saying it "firmly opposes" the isolated Stalinist regime's nuclear weapons program.

It meanwhile vowed to investigate the exact nature of the test, which rocked areas of northeastern China with earthquake-like tremors according to local residents.

"China firmly opposes the latest nuclear test conducted by [North Korea]", the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement after Pyongyang announced it had successfully carried out its first hydrogen bomb test.

According to North Korean state news agency KCNA: "The first H-bomb test was successfully conducted ... at 10:00 a.m. (0130 GMT) on Wednesday."

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) had earlier reported a 5.1 magnitude quake that South Korea said was 30 miles from a previous nuclear test site at Punggye-ri.

"We felt it here, at nine-something in the morning," an employee at a hotel in Yanji county, told RFA on Wednesday. "Everyone thought it was an earthquake; we all thought it was an earthquake."

"The guests came and told us they felt the tremors when they were lying in bed."

Residents of Yanji were ordered to evacuate following the tremors, and were shown gathered outside in the snow shortly after the blast was felt, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said on its official Twitter account.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China, North Korea's only significant ally, "steadfastly" opposes nuclear weapons development in the Korean peninsula.

"The Korean Peninsula should be denuclearized and nuclear proliferation should be prevented, to maintain peace and stability in northeast Asia," Hua told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

"We strongly urge [North Korea] to honor its commitment to denuclearization, and to cease any action that may deteriorate the situation," she said.

Hua said Beijing knew nothing of the test before the announcement, and had ordered experts to "step up analysis" to establish whether the device detonated was a hydrogen bomb or some other kind of nuclear device.

'Unlikely' claim


Official media quickly moved to discredit the claim that the detonation was of a hydrogen bomb, citing experts as saying this was unlikely, and echoing similar doubts voiced in overseas media outlets.

Meanwhile, Chinese environmental experts are also analyzing radiation levels along the North Korean border, Hua said.

"[They] will take all necessary measures to protect Chinese people's lives and property safety," Hua said, adding that radiation levels had been found to be normal so far.

A Chinese journalist, who gave only his surname Xiao, said Beijing is sure to have been angered by Wednesday's test.

"Of course China isn't happy about this, because it constitutes a threat to China and to previous international agreements," Xiao said, adding that Beijing's support for peaceful negotiations via the six-nation denuclearization talks had been undermined.

"China has a problem with North Korea now because of its nuclear program, and yet it still hasn't entirely cut off the flow of aid," he said.

"China is also using North Korea as a stick to beat the U.S. with."

Xiao said many in China assume that North Korea is getting help with its weapons research from other countries.

"China is at least partially responsible for this test," he said.

'Broken teeth'

Online comments were largely scathing about Beijing's relationship with Pyongyang, which has traditionally been described as "closer than lips and teeth."

“North Korea has successfully detonated an H-bomb. Now all China can do is swallow its broken teeth," Sina Weibo user @zibenshashoukouwenhong wrote.

User @bayimishu agreed. "As long as China continues to play wet-nurse to North Korea, they will cynically carry on with their nuclear program. China should count the cost of its 'nanny' role and charge a higher price," they wrote.

Another commenter identified as "Tan" commented on the website of the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party: "China should invade North Korea and put an end to this fat pig's crazy schemes once and for all..."

"Let them blow themselves to smithereens," wrote Sina Weibo user @yanyujiangnan1023. "We shouldn't have to take the heat for them."

User @chendong meanwhile commented: "For such a backward country as North Korea to successfully detonate nuclear and even thermonuclear weapons must mean that some of its allies are helping it behind the scenes."

Others had drily humorous reactions: "Once the bad guys learn kung fu, no one can stand in their way," wrote user @fengdong_xindong.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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