Zee Media Bureau
Pyongyang: In what is an apparent expression of Pyongyang`s pique over Chinese President Xi Jinping`s visit to South Korea, North Korea on Thursday issued an aggressive statement, pledging to continue further tactical guided missiles.
As Chinese President embarked on a two-day visit to Seoul today an apparently embittered North Korea vowed to go ahead with the holding of “drills of launching high-precision tactical guided missiles" and called it a legitimate exercise of sovereignty.
"(North Korea) will continue to hold drills of launching high-precision tactical guided missiles," reports quoted a spokesman for the Korean People`s Army (KPA) Strategic Force.
China is the only major ally of North Korea as it provides Pyongyang with food and fuel supplies and President Xi`s arrival in Seoul is being perceived as a clear snub to the hermit kingdom.
North Korea has been firing a flurry of short-range missiles and rockets from its east coast since last week in defiance of a UN ban on Pyongyang conducting such tests.
Xi`s choice to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un upends the practice since Beijing and Seoul forged diplomatic ties in 1992 of Chinese presidents choosing to make Pyongyang their first official destination on the Korean Peninsula.
The trip highlights Beijing`s interest in nurturing trade and diplomacy with Seoul and shows its aversion to Pyongyang`s destabilizing pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Beijing, entangled in hostile territorial disputes across Asia, may see an opportunity to boost its influence with the rare neighbor that feels generally positive about China, while also further driving a wedge between U.S. allies Seoul and Tokyo.
"In some ways the budding closeness between Xi and Park echoes much older patterns in East Asia, when China exercised a relatively benign hegemony over many of its neighbors," said John Delury, an expert on China and Korea at Seoul`s Yonsei University.
The two-day summit marks Park`s fifth meeting with Xi since she took office early last year.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang urged reporters not to "over-read" Xi`s decision to visit South Korea before the North. But many in China see the visit as not only a remarkable departure from the past, but also a sign of a budding friendship between the leaders.
Money has long been the focus of the relationship between China, the world`s second-largest economy, and South Korea, the fourth-biggest economy in Asia.
They are in talks on a bilateral free trade agreement. China is South Korea`s largest trading partner, and Seoul says two-way trade topped $220 billion last year. That`s larger than the combined value of South Korea`s trade with the United States and Japan.
China is seen as having unusual leverage with hard-to-read North Korea and is often pressed to do more to force change. They fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies. More recently, North Korea has repeatedly looked to China for diplomatic cover when the United Nations has taken up North Korean nuclear and missile tests and its much-criticized human rights record.
With Agency Inputs