Beijing on Thursday announced that it opposed the recent sanctions targeted at North Korea’s leader issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Speaking at a regular press conference, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said the Chinese government did not support the human rights focused sanctions.
“(Beijing) opposes public pressurization, confrontation, one country’s wilful resort to unilateral sanction on another country based on its domestic law and damage to the legitimate and lawful rights and interests of another country,” Lei said.
The move from Washington drew an even harsher rebuke from Pyongyang, who issued a statement heavy on tough rhetoric.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry’s statement went into high gear, saying that any diplomatic channel or contact method would now be closed, and calling the move a “declaration of war”.
“From now that the U.S. declared a war on the DPRK, any problem arising in the relations with the U.S. will be handled under the latter’s wartime law.”
Despite the hard-line tone of the remarks, the KCNA Watch data tool shows that North Korea considers actions from other countries declarations of war relatively often.
The DPRK’s English media output indicates that North Korea has felt other countries are declaring war over 200 times since 1997. The most commons source of war declarations is the U.S., though Japan and South Korea also trigger them.
Sanction issues in particular are often interpreted as declarations of war, from both the U.S. and the UN. But military exercises, the South’s National Intelligence Services’ activities and human rights criticism are also often considered declarations of war.
“They have cited specific operations such as the bomber flights, drills and submarine visits,” NK News director of intelligence John Grisafi said.
“It’s largely a consistent part of their propaganda strategy to bring up claims and examples of the U.S. and South Korea as actively threatening the North and being ready to invade at any time to rationalize the militaristic attitude of North Korea.”
The phrase “wartime law” also used in the DPRK’s statement is much less frequent. In total it has come up just 20 times over the same period. The term is most often used to describe Japan’s stance against the DPRK, though in some articles North Korea also said the South would be handled according to wartime law.
Nonetheless the DPRK’s strident statement also called the situation “critical” and concluded by saying threats from the U.S. would be met with the “toughest countermeasures”.
On Friday the U.S. and South Korea also announced they would be deploy the advanced THAAD missile defense system. The move will likely further aggravate North Korea, and both Beijing and Moscow have long been in opposition of a build up of U.S. missile defense systems in the region.
Featured image: KCNA