SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- News reports about China have effectively vanished from North Korean media, raising speculation that Pyongyang is upset with its close ally over its request the North not go through with its expected nuclear test, an analysis of the country's major wire service, daily paper and broadcasters showed Wednesday.
The screening of the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Rodong Sinmun, Korean Central Television (KCTV), Radio Pyongyang and Chosun Central TV by Yonhap News Agency following the passage of the U.N. Security Council resolution on Jan. 23 (Korea time) showed almost no mention of China in the North's tightly-controlled mass media.
The resolution passed unanimously by the 15-member council, that includes China and Russia, condemned Pyongyang's launching of its Unha-3 long-range rocket and called for the tightening of sanctions against the isolationist country. The North has lambasted the move by the global body and threatened it will further build up its nuclear deterrence capabilities. The country said it can conduct a "higher level" nuclear test to protect itself more effectively from foreign enemies.
Reviewing dispatches over the past two weeks, Yonhap said KCNA dealt with stories on China provided by Xinhua News Agency only twice, with both not being related to the current nuclear standoff or actual coverage of the neighboring country.
In contrast, the wire service used reports by Russia's ITAR-TASS, the Associated Press, Voice of America, Reuters, BBC and Kyodo News.
"The absence of Xinhua content is noteworthy because in the past, the North customarily gave it top priority when reporting on foreign events," an analyst said. He said such developments are highly unusual, especially since Pyongyang has generally highlighted its close ties with China by reporting on even minor events in the neighboring country and North Korea-China exchanges.
North Korean watchers also said other media outlets such as KCTV have followed this new development. The station has not released any reports on China in the past 10 days.
Reflecting this "change" in reporting behavior, local experts on North Korea said the leadership in Pyongyang may have been angered by the lack of willingness by Beijing to thwart or at least not join the U.N. resolution. China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, could have exercised its veto power.
They also said that China has consistently warned the North not to conduct another nuclear test because it could fray relations and endanger peace and stability in the region. Some Chinese newspapers, such as the Global Times, have openly called on Beijing to take a tough stance against future action by Pyongyang. The paper, which is an affiliate of the People's Daily, made clear that while the North was an important country, China cannot allow the neighboring state to infringe on its national interests and compromise its critical diplomatic policy stance. Beijing has ardently supported nuclear non-proliferation.
"The conspicuous lack of coverage on China can be a sign of North Korea's displeasure with actions taken by China at the U.N.," said Koh You-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
This view was echoed by Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, who said the media "silence" may be a form of passive protest.
"It may be the North showing China how it felt about the resolution and nuclear issue, without going all out to criticize Beijing," the scholar said.
Others said that the silent approach may be the only option that the North has since Beijing has played the role of shielding the country from outside criticism to a certain degree, and because it is a key economic partner.
Chinese customs reports showed two-way trade surpassing the US$6 billion mark for the first time last year, up 7 percent on-year. China imported $2.5 billion worth of North Korean goods, while exporting little over $3.5 billion. About 60 percent of all imports from North Korea were mineral resources.
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