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China sinks deeper into 'mire' of N. Korea's nuke gambit: state media

North Korea's defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons has pulled China "deeper into the mire," a newspaper published by China's ruling Communist Party said Saturday, as Beijing is under pressure to do more to curb Pyongyang's aggression.

   North Korea's Jan. 6 nuclear test and Feb. 7 launch of a long-range rocket have drawn international condemnations and fanned fears that the isolated country is moving ahead with the advance of its nuclear and missile programs.

   China is North Korea's top trading partner and supplies almost all of the North's energy needs, but Beijing has been reluctant to approve a new U.N. resolution that would make Pyongyang feel pain because of worries about a sudden collapse of the North's regime.

   To better cope with North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, South Korea decided to start formal talks with the U.S. to adopt an advanced American anti-missile system known as a THAAD battery.

   "The problem is, Pyongyang made a mistake in its first step in developing nuclear weapons. Now the nuclear issue has been pulling China deeper into the mire," the state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial.

   "We must determine which scenario hurts China more - either North Korea successfully develops nuclear weapons and prompts a strong reaction from the U.S., Japan and South Korea, or China has a showdown with North Korea by agreeing to the strictest sanctions, but that may lead to other geopolitical consequences," the editorial reads.

   The editorial stopped short of giving an answer to the questions.

   Chinese officials and media have reacted more seriously to the possible deployment of the THAAD battery in South Korea than North Korea's nuclear test and rocket launch.

   South Korean and U.S. officials say the THAAD battery is not aimed at targeting a third country, but China has claimed the U.S.missile shield would undermine its national security interests.

   South Korea's defense ministry has refuted the Chinese argument, blaming Beijing for trying to undermine Seoul's sovereignty. (Yonhap)

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