North Korea nuclear test
On February 12, 2013, North Korea unleashed its third - and largest - underground nuclear test, causing an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9. The Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang said the test was the "first response" to what it called US threats. The test defied a UN move tightening sanctions against leader Kim Jong-un's regime three weeks before. The UN Security Council strongly condemned the test and vowed to take action against Pyongyang for an act that all major world powers, including traditional ally China, denounced.
War of words grows between US and Beijing over North Korea nuclear test
Blame game over Pyongyang's third nuclear test intensifies as official news agency rounds on US media's coverage of Beijing's policies
Washington, rather than Beijing, should take greater responsibility for Pyongyang's third nuclear test last week, Xinhua said in a commentary attacking foreign media reports that China's North Korean policy had failed.
The Xinhua article, issued on Saturday night, accused "a few Western media that has ulterior motives" of "throwing dirty water" at China by concluding that Beijing's policy towards long-term communist ally North Korea was a failure.
Although Xinhua did not name names, the Wall Street Journal's Chinese website ran an article on Wednesday - one day after Pyongyang tested the bomb - penned by a Shanghai-based independent analyst with the headline "The test signifies the failure of China's policy on the North's nuclear programme". The WSJ article argued that Beijing, restricted by communism ideology and deluded by a "strategic buffer zone" concept about Pyongyang, has repeatedly wasted opportunities to rein in its neighbour's nuclear ambition.
"The North's [second] nuclear test in 2009 already declared the death of the six-party talk [sponsored by Beijing], but out of a need to save face, and more importantly, to eschew being taken accountable for its failed policies, China has just sat around and watched the nuclear situation on the Korean Peninsula spin out of control," the article said.
The Xinhua commentary, quoting several mainland experts, said the "China's NK policy has failed" argument seen in the Western media had other purposes, which were to stimulate and provoke Beijing to take a tougher line against the North. It went on to argue that it was Washington, instead of Beijing, that should seriously reflect and reassess its North Korea policies.
"The North's nuclear test was not targeting China, not even South Korea, but the United States," Xinhua quoted an international relations scholar at Tsinghua University as saying.
"On this issue [of denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula], it's rather the failure of the US, South Korea or Japan, and they should go through serious reflection."
Other mainland experts quoted in the Xinhua article said the main reason for nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula was the long-term antagonism between Washington and Pyongyang.
"This [nuclear situation] is the evil fruit of over 60 years of enmity between North Korea and the US", Xinhua quoted another expert as saying.
After the North went ahead with the test despite a strong warning from Beijing, there has been an increasing debate, not only among scholars but also in the mainland media, whether China should rethink its strategy towards its communist neighbour.
While Beijing's patience with Pyongyang is wearing thin, it is not ready to cut its economically-struggling neighbour loose and put it in danger of collapse.
The English version of the Global Times, published by the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, issued an editorial saying: "It is unrealistic for some to argue that China has lost the game, saying it should control North Korea and has the power to stop it from developing nuclear weapons."