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N. Korea distances itself from China, Russia ahead of nuke test
SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has moved to distance itself from traditional allies such as China and Russia as it prepares to conduct another nuclear test in the face of stiff international opposition, diplomatic observers said Thursday.

   Local observers said the "cooling off" of normally close relations became noticeable after Beijing and Moscow joined the 15-member U.N. Security Council (UNSC) last month in condemning the launch of the long-range Unha-3 rocket on Dec. 12.

   Pyongyang has not directly lashed out at the two countries, but observers noted a rise in tensions with communist country's powerful National Defense Commission criticizing the inability of "big countries" to uphold fair global order at the U.N.

   The mention of big countries is seen as a reflection of Pyongyang's disappointment toward China and Russia, who as permanent members of the UNSC, could have vetoed the resolution that calls for tightening of sanctions. The two countries also joined the global community in warning the North not to take further steps to destabilize peace and stability.

   In particular, North Korea watchers said relations with its closest ally China have been frayed because of Pyongyang's insistence that it needs nuclear weapons to counter the United States, while Beijing has made clear that resolving the present impasse is in the best interests of all countries concerned.

   China has steadfastly maintained that it supports non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

   "China's position has remained the same with the country expressing reservations after the North detonated nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, but they seem to be taking a firmer line, compared to the past," a government source, who declined to be identified, said.

   He added that there are even indications that if the North goes through with another detonation, Beijing may cut back on the aid it gives to the impoverished country.

   Reflecting this view, a recent editorial on the Global Times, a newspaper operated by People's Daily, and indirectly reflecting the views of the China's ruling Communist Party, openly warned that if Pyongyang conducts another atomic weapons test in the face of opposition from China, it has to be willing to pay the consequences that can include a reduction in support.
Beijing may also be showing its irritation by not sending a special delegation to the North to persuade the country to give up the test.

   Observers said that Pyongyang's relations with Moscow have been affected as well. They claimed that the North may have rejected a request by Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the Federation Council, to visit the country late last month.

   The visit by the head of Russian parliament's upper house may have been rejected because Moscow signed off on the U.N. resolution.

   The failed visit is noteworthy because Matviyenko is not only the highest ranking female statesman in Russia but also a confidant of President Vladimir Putin.

   Besides not allowing the legislative leader to visit the country, Pyongyang's representatives at the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum held in Vladivostok declined a move arranged by the Federation Council to hold talks with legislators from South Korea.

   Despite indications that the North will detonate a nuclear device regardless of international pressure, the isolationist country has hinted that it can hold talks with the incoming Park Geun-hye administration depending on what action it takes. The 61-year-old Park takes office on Feb. 25 as the country's first woman president.

   This stance outlined in the Chosun Sinbo, the official paper of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, said that while Pyongyang has announced it will halt denuclearization efforts on the Korean Peninsula, a new administration that is willing to cope with all outstanding issues in the spirit of joint interest could permit talks to take place.

   The paper that represents Pyongyang's views then hinted that negotiations can center on signing a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War (1950-53). The three-year conflict was settled with a cease-fire armistice, which means the two Koreas are still technically at war.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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