China North Korea Border

China Warns its Citizens in North Korea to Leave as Conflict with US Looms

© AP Photo/ Ng Han Guan, File
Asia & Pacific

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Fearing a possible US attack on North Korea, Beijing is urging its citizens there to return, as Pyongyang continues its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.

The US-funded Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday that the Chinese Embassy in North Korea sent out the warning less than a week before the 85th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army on April 25, an occasion some expected the North to use as an opportunity to conduct its sixth nuclear test.

Pyongyang instead conducted a large live-fire drill. Four days after the anniversary, the North carried out a missile test, but the projectile exploded several minutes after launching, a “failure” South Korean officials later surmised was intentional.

Amid holiday celebrations, the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine, armed with 150 Tomahawk missiles, joined a US Navy carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson near the Korean Peninsula, in a show of force from Washington.

A Korean-Chinese citizen who left Pyongyang after receiving the warning in late April told Radio Free Asia, “The embassy has never given such a warning. I was worried and left the country in a hurry,” according to the Korea Times.

He added that, despite mounting tensions with South Korea and the US, Pyongyang’s “peaceful” environment prevented a sense of urgency or panic amongst the Korean-Chinese population.

With the recent deployment in South Korea of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), Washington’s threats of military action against the North and the US’s ongoing joint military exercises with South Korea, Pyongyang has accused the US of pushing the peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war” with its “aggression and hysteria.”

Through the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North has stated that it will “continue to bolster its military capabilities for self-defense and pre-emptive nuclear attack,” with a spokesman saying in a statement Tuesday, “Now that the US is kicking up the overall racket for sanctions and pressure against DPRK, pursuant to its new DPRK policy called ‘maximum pressure and engagement,’ the DPRK will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its nuclear deterrence,” the Guardian reported.

On Monday, KCNA also noted that the North was prepared to conduct its next nuclear test whenever leadership deemed it appropriate.