China has responded to repeated calls for its government to put more pressure on North Korea by accusing other countries of shirking their responsibilities to end the nuclear standoff.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday urged a halt to what he called the “China responsibility theory”, and said the resolution did not solely lie with Beijing.
It comes after numerous world leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Donald Trump, suggested China is not doing enough to rein in North Korea.
“Recently, certain people, talking about the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, have been exaggerating and giving prominence to the so-called ‘China responsibility theory’,” Mr Shuang said, without naming any parties.
“I think this either shows lack of a full, correct knowledge of the issue, or there are ulterior motives for it, trying to shift responsibility.
“Asking others to do work, but doing nothing themselves is not okay. Being stabbed in the back is really not okay.
“China is not to be blamed for the current escalation of tension, nor does China hold the key to resolve the issue.”
But according to Lowy Institute international security program director Dr Euan Graham, China’s hard-line stance is contradictory.
“It shows a very reactive and defensive position… it comes across as a double standard,” Dr Graham told The New Daily.
“On one hand China is acting as a global leader while on the other hand it is recoiling on the issue. There is a contradiction in China’s approach. It’s washing it hands of it.”
In his address, Mr Shuang argued China was upholding its obligations under United Nations resolutions on North Korea and that its interests were being damaged by other countries’ actions.
However, Dr Graham said China could be targeted further for its convoluted position on North Korea, especially by the Trump administration.
“The issue for China now is that the Trump administration will link China to be working with North Korea,” he said.
“There is a contradiction in China’s approach… it has the ability to divide alliances.”
Prime Minister Turnbull addressed Beijing’s influence over the rogue state at the G20 Summit in Hamburg last week, where he bluntly told Chinese President Xi Jinping he must make North Korea heel.
“My message… is exactly the same message that I make publicly and that is China has the ability to bring North Korea to its senses in a way that nobody else can, absent military force, and they should take that responsibility and act,” Mr Turnbull said of their private meeting.
“It is very clear that the escalation is becoming increasingly dangerous and China has the unique ability to take action.”
Meanwhile, President Trump has expressed his impatience with China’s lack of action, condemning its close economic and diplomatic ties to Pyongyang.
Mr Trump attacked China in a series of tweets earlier this month, questioning whether, “China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2017
The US also handed China a draft resolution to impose stronger sanctions on North Korea at a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday.
The 15-member meeting was to discuss Pyongyang’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches.