Jilin Daily, a local Chinese state newspaper from the Jilin border region with North Korea, published a guide on Wednesday on how to behave in the event of a nuclear attack.
While the report did not mention North Korea by name, the national propaganda outlet Global Times published a piece explaining that the government felt the guide necessary “as assumptions increase on possible clashes on the Korean Peninsula.”
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and most prominent long-time ally. Under leader Xi Jinping, however, China has abided by United Nations sanctions against the fellow communist regime and committed to helping the United States put an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear program. China has not significantly diminished its trade volume with North Korea, however, and demands a near-total absence of U.S. troops from Asia as a requirement to de-escalate tension with the Kim regime.
The Jilin Daily article, titled “Knowledge about Nuclear Weapons and Protection,” featured illustrations describing how to protect oneself in the event of a nuclear incident, including a nuclear attack. According to the South China Morning Post, the Mandarin-language article urged residents of Jilin to “close their windows and doors during an emergency and immediately take a shower and wash out their mouths and ears after being exposed to radiation.”
The article also provided some background on the history of nuclear weapons, the types of nuclear weapons known to exist, and how to respond to a variety of indications that a nuclear weapon may have been fired in the vicinity, including earthquakes and flashes of light.
Jilin experienced ground tremors in the aftermath of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in September.
The Post notes that the newspaper has previously warned of potential radiation issues but “not specifically discussed nuclear weapons before.” Reports on radiation in the past were in response to potential nuclear fallout drifting towards China from Japan in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.
The state-run Global Times explained on Wednesday that clarification on the Jilin Dailypiece was necessary because it had “sparked lively discussions online.” An official in Jilin told the Times that such education articles are necessary and not uncommon, even if the particular subject matter of this article garnered more attention than usual.
“We provide monthly articles on national defense education and protective measures against disasters to the newspaper. This month is an article on nuclear weapons,” an anonymous Jilin Air Defense office employee is quoted as saying.
The South China Morning Post, citing The Beijing News, quotes another Jilin Air Defense official, identified as Xu Yucheng, as dismissing any panic surrounding the publication of the article.
“Many countries use the media to educate the public regarding nuclear protection. But education in China is far more limited when compared with developed countries like Japan,” he reportedly said.
Despite the calm from Chinese officials, following September’s nuclear test, Chinese scientists sounded the alarm on the potential for North Korea’s nuclear experiments to cause significant damage on the other side of the border. Experts have expressed concern that any mistake in conducting a nuclear test could create a Chernobyl-like scenario in which China, like Belarus, takes in much of the nuclear pollution and suffers the health and environmental consequences for generations, even if the event did not occur within its borders.
In September, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection announced the activation of “contingency plans” in the event of a North Korean nuclear disaster, citing China’s experience of a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in its border regions following the nuclear test. Two months later, one geologist a Peking University wrote urging the government to prepare for a calamity in North Korea.
“China cannot sit and wait until the site implodes,” the statement read. “Our instruments can detect nuclear fallout when it arrives, but it will be too late by then. There will be public panic and anger at the government for not taking action.”
China also executed large-scale military drills near its border with the fellow communist country last week, which state-run media insisted were scheduled to take place before last week’s illegal missile test and not meant to convey any message to Pyongyang.
China continues to engage heavily in trade with North Korea, however. In October, Reuters noted that exports to North Korea increased 21 percent over the past year despite increasingly frequent provocations from the rogue regime.