China's foreign minister called North Korea's ambassador in for a dressing-down and demanded his country cease making further threats, in a show of Beijing's displeasure over its ally's latest nuclear test.
Yang Jiechi delivered a "stern representation" to Ji Jae Ryong on Tuesday and expressed China's "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition" to the test, the ministry said in a statement posted to its website.
"Yang Jiechi demanded that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea side cease talk that further escalates the situation and swiftly return to the correct channel of dialogue and negotiation," the statement said. It did not say if Ji made any response. Calls to the North Korean Embassy rang unanswered Tuesday.
Yang reiterated China's desire for peace and stability on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and said issues should be resolved within the framework of long-stalled denuclearization talks involving North Korea, China, the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Russia.
The appeals were contained in an earlier statement from the ministry calling on North Korea to abide by its denuclearization pledge, and not to "take additional actions that could cause the situation to further deteriorate, echoing the wording of China's responses to previous North Korean nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Yang's meeting with the ambassador shows China's anger and frustration over North Korea's actions since the ministry calls in foreign diplomats only in cases of extreme pique, such as U.S. arms sales to Taiwan or Japan's nationalization of a disputed island group. However, neither statement pointed to any specific actions Beijing would take in response to Tuesday's nuclear test, the North's third.
The meeting also followed a warning from North Korea that the test was merely its "first response" to what it called U.S. threats, and that it will continue with unspecified "second and third measures of greater intensity" if Washington maintains its hostility.
Despite being the North's biggest source of aid and diplomatic support, Beijing has been reluctant to back more severe measures that could destabilize the North's hardline regime, which serves as a buffer between China and democratic South Korea backed by U.S. forces.
China's patience appears to be wearing thin, however, and Beijing reacted in unusually strong terms to the North's December rocket launch by agreeing to tightened United Nations sanctions on the country, a move that brought criticism from Pyongyang.
China had repeatedly called on the North not to conduct a test, and Pyongyang's decision to proceed anyway will likely strengthen Beijing's arguments that it has little power to influence its neighbour and that harsh actions against the regime will have only a negative effect.