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China media slams U.S. posturing

From CNN Correspondent Lisa Rose Weaver

Pyongyang's stance over its nuclear facilities is driving a wedge between the U.S. and China
Pyongyang's stance over its nuclear facilities is driving a wedge between the U.S. and China

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- An official Chinese newspaper has blasted the United States over its recent stance towards North Korea since the communist state pressed ahead with a nuclear program.

The state media China Daily focused on U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent warning that the United States was ready to fight two major conflicts at once if necessary.

"This is a hawkish and dangerous warning," the English-language publication said. "It will poison the warming relations between the two sides of the Korean peninsula."

The editorial went on to say the United States was irritated at having to shift its focus towards North Korea while it planned a war in Iraq.

It was Beijing's sharpest commentary on U.S. policy toward North Korea since the start of a standoff between the DPRK and the United States over North Korea's nuclear weapons program. ('Nuclear brinkmanship')

By contrast, China's Foreign Ministry did not offer its own reaction to reflect the growing heat in the debate.

Since Pyongyang announced it has a nuclear weapons program, China had essentially not changed its public stance -- including when North Korea announced it would dismantle the seals on a nuclear reactor.

Beijing simply repeated its position that North Korea should get rid of its nuclear weapons, as well as open a dialogue with Washington and South Korea.

Earlier this year when U.S. President George Bush visited Beijing, he urged China to stop selling weapons of mass destruction to North Korea and pressed Chinese leaders to exert their influence over Pyongyang. Then-president Jiang Zemin pledged that China would help the United States by taking an active role in establishing talks with the DPRK leadership.

Awkward position

A series of U.S. officials have visited Beijing since then to ask for its help in dealing with North Korea, but there has been no evidence of concrete progress.

In recent weeks, one source knowledgeable about Beijing's involvement on the issue told CNN that Chinese officials tend to promise little on specific requests but on the whole, are cooperative.

The pressure on China puts Beijing in an awkward position. China and North Korea are ideological allies who fought American troops side by side during the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Diplomatic sources told CNN in the past week that Beijing is privately irritated by Pyongyang's often erratic behavior and unhappy at an emerging pattern of North Korea's leadership making decisions without consulting Beijing.

But most analysts agree China will maintain the "lips and teeth" ideological bond with its neighbor and will refrain from publicly criticizing the DPRK.

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