A state-run newspaper in northeast China published a full-page article advising local residents on how to cope with a nuclear attack – a sign of Beijing's concern about a possible disaster in the Korean peninsula.
Wednesday's article in J ilin Daily, published in a province that borders North Korea, ran under the headline "Knowledge about Nuclear Weapons and Protection", came as sabre rattling continues to escalate following Pyongyang's repeated nuclear and missile tests – the latest one last week.
A US B-1B bomber flew over the Korean peninsula on Wednesday during a large-scale joint aerial drill, which Pyongyang said would lead to the "brink of war". Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said earlier that he felt that tensions over North Korea had resurfaced.
Jilin Daily did not mention North Korea in the article, but it said when the United States dropped a nuclear bomb in the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945, fires, radiation and a blast wave killed more than 70,000 people.
It offered advice on measures it said could help to protect people from radiation, including taking iodine pills.
The page was accompanied by cartoon illustrations asking people 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.
Jilin, a province that borders North Korea and shares a 1,200km boundary with the reclusive state, is close to the country's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
The newspaper has previously run reports on how to ward off the impact of radioactive contamination following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011, but has not specifically discussed nuclear weapons before.
Other nations, including the United States, Japan and South Korea, have previously given their citizens similar advice.
In August, Guam's Homeland Security and Office of Civil Defence released a two-page fact sheet on social media and its website, giving people advice such as making a list of potential concrete shelters near home and avoiding looking at the fireball.
The US overseas territory is about 3,400km from North Korea – well within range of North Korea's intermediate range ballistic missiles – and earlier this year Pyongyang threated to target the Pacific island.
Zhang Liangui, a professor of international strategic research at China's Central Party School, said:
"North Korea has fired a new missile that can reach the US and the US is conducting large scale navy drills with South Korea.`
"We cannot say war will come, but in situations like this, China has to educate people more about nuclear weapons," said Zhang.
Global Times, a tabloid owned by the official People's Daily, said in an editorial on Wednesday that China was closely watching the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and was fully prepared for various scenarios.
"The North Korean situation is worsening, and it is necessary for both the country and public to step up awareness and prepare for the worst," said the editorial.
"Even if there is another war on the peninsula, our country will try its best to minimise the impact of the war to northeastern China."
Xu Yucheng, a deputy director of Jilin's civil air defence office, downplayed such concerns, saying that the content of the article was mainly for national defence education and should not be over-interpreted.
"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 was quoted by The Beijing News as saying.
A Jilin Daily staff member said the full-page article was just a one-off.
Some residents in cities bordering North Korea said they were concerned about the possible nuclear risk.
"The situation appears to be calm now," said a local resident in Dandong in Liaoning province, who did not want to be identified.
"But the site used by North Korea for nuclear testing is very close to Dandong. Sometimes when we look at the sky above North Korea, we cannot tell if it is a [mushroom] cloud or smog. We are a bit worried."
wo residents in the city of Tonghua in Jilin province, who declined to be named, said they did not know much about the current situation on the Korean peninsula and were carrying on with their lives as normal.
Wang Sheng, a North Korean affairs expert from Jilin University, said Jilin Daily was telling people in China's northeast that a disaster could be imminent.
"It reflects the deep worries, disappointment and frustration across northeastern China towards North Korea and the article is timely in educating the public on how to protect themselves," said Wang.
Here are the five ways to deal with a nuclear attack according to Jilin Daily
1. Do not look at the fireball when there is an explosive flash. It can instantly damage your eyes.
2. When you are outdoors, lie flat on the ground within two seconds and try to take cover. If there is a river, lake or pond, jump into the water. If possible, use light-coloured clothing to cover yourself, especially the exposed skin area.
3. If you are indoors, immediately lie flat under a table or bed. You should avoid being close to glass windows, combustible objects and things that could easily collapse.
4. After the blast, quickly remove radioactive materials from your contaminated clothing and close the windows and doors to stop radioactive materials coming in.
5. If possible, wash your body and hair with soap. If there is no water, you should use clean towels or gauze to wipe yourself in one direction.
Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk and Charmmy Zhang
• This story first appeared in the South China Morning Post and has been republished with permission