In response to reports in Chinese media of a possible suspension of crude oil in the event of North Korean provocations or a sixth nuclear test, the North Korean authorities have been trying to consolidate internal support by directly criticizing China during lectures attended by residents.
“The authorities have been continuously criticizing China through inminban [people’s unit, or neighborhood watch] lectures and Ministry of State Security lectures. The speakers are even denouncing China as a shameless country that is blocking reunification of the Korean peninsula,’” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on April 27.
North Korea has often criticized the United States for hindering reunification, citing the annual U.S.-ROK joint-military drills, which the North perceives as a prelude to invasion, while labeling the U.S. presence in South Korea as colonization.
It is unusual for North Korea to publicly criticize China, which has previously been considered a “brother nation.”
“Everyone is embarrassed because the regime suddenly changed its attitude toward China from emphasizing ‘friendship’ to criticizing it with the same rhetoric used against the US. Some residents are assuming that Kim Jong Un must be upset because China did not send a delegation for the Suryong (Kim Il Sung)’s birthday ceremony,” a source in South Pyongyan Province explained.
“Most people are worried that if China and the US cooperate, it will be the end of North Korea because Pyongyang will be completely isolated if its last remaining friend (China) becomes an enemy.”
Some argue that the North Korean authorities are strengthening their criticism of China during the lectures because they believe that China will eventually have to return to conciliatory measures again. Other mentions in Chinese media advocated for ‘carrots over sticks’ ahead of possible provocations during April, posited to occur around Kim Il Sung’s birthday or Military Foundation Day, though nothing significant transpired.
“The regime is well aware of the fact that China is never going to give up on North Korea,” said one high-ranking North Korean defector who requested anonymity. “Therefore, the regime is strategically criticizing China, so that it can tell residents that ‘China has surrendered to our strong position’ when China changes its attitude back to conciliatory gestures.”
Earlier, Daily NK reported in February that North Korea conducted public lectures for workers at enterprises in the border areas to prepare them for a rupture in Sino-North Korean bilateral relations.