What North Korea’s nuclear activity means for China

12 Feb

Following the recent nuclear activity by North Korea, it will be interesting to see what China’s response will be. The international community want to take action against North Korea but without causing the issue to escalate. Economic sanctions look the most likely response to Pyongyang’s clear violation of the UN. The issue is that the UN has already imposed severe sanctions on North Korea and so far it’s made little difference. The only country with the power to impose effective economic sanctions on North Korea is China. Before this most recent development China was North Korea’s sole ally in the international community, these new tests have a put a huge strain on that relationship. Although China have already condemned the attacks, it will be an interesting test for China’s new government to see what they do next, especially considering the pressure that will be put on them by the rest of the international community.

Link to article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21421841

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5 Responses to “What North Korea’s nuclear activity means for China”

  1. cjf3g11 February 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    State-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the test was conducted in a safe manner and is aimed at coping with “outrageous” US hostility that “violently” undermines the North’s peaceful, sovereign rights to launch satellites. However there are fears that it could bring North Korea closer to developing a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on a long-range missile and possibly bringing the US within striking distance. The North Koreans want the US to stop further hostility towards their rights to launch satellites or else they will be forced to take stronger, second and third responses.
    The trouble the international community faces is what they can do in response without triggering an even bigger crisis as North Korea is already tied up in layers of sanctions which do not seem to have had any impact. There have been discussions of solutions but the only real pressure is seen to lie with China.
    With China’s new leadership in place in March Pyongyang is giving Beijing a very public test of its own. This raises questions as to whether China’s relationship with North Korea might change under the new Chinese leadership especially as the new president, Xi Jinping, has made it very clear that he intends to make relationships between China and the US better. He wants to find a way that they can move forward working with each other. Therefore in the current situation China is lodged between its long standing ally North Korea, and its potential future ‘friend’ America.
    The Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, said Beijing was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” to the test and urged the North to end its bellicose rhetoric and “acts that could worsen the situation, and return to the right course of dialogue and consultation as soon as possible”.
    It would appear to make sense for North Korea to listen to China as it is its only ally and biggest aid donor. However, Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group raised a good question as to whether it could cause things to spiral because although the international community agrees there should be some costs and consequences, the consequences may not deter them. The North Koreans view the world as hostile and menacing; and if China is also hostile, they will believe this even more so. Other people might think OK, they will be more cautious and have second thoughts because even China will take action. But, from their point of view, it reaffirms why they need a nuclear programme.

  2. np2g11 February 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    North Korea’s nuclear testing certainly does not have China’s approval as it did not have in the past. In fact China agreed to the UN Resolution 1718 in 2006 about economic and commercial sanctions against North Korea following another nuclear test. However even after that China remained one of North Korea’s main allies and kept intense economic relations with the country.

    It’s worth looking at the main reasons of China’s interest in not interrupting its alliance with the DPRK. North Korea depends dramatically on trade with China, especially because of food and energy imports. It has been estimated that in the early 1990s China was providing about 90% of North Korea’s energy imports and about 45% of its food. China as well gains from the alliance as this allows easier investments in North Korea and its resources and it favours migrations towards the latter.

    Furthermore the DPRK represents an obstacle between China and the US, which supports South Korea. Hence China is indirectly protecting its borders through the alliance with its neighbour country. This is particularly important as it allows China to avoid war and concentrate on other issues such as the China-Japan islands dispute.

    Source: http://www.cfr.org/china/china-north-korea-relationship/p11097

  3. tw8g11 February 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    The response of the Chinese to these latest developments will be most interesting. There is a possibility that it could curb its own assistance to the North Koreans, a fact that should not be underestimated given they are their predominant trading partners and principle suppliers of aid (China is estimated to provide them with half a million tons of oil annually). As the article notes, the two countries were once said to have had a relationship as close as ‘lips and teeth’, but relations have become increasingly strained, which is no doubt at least partly due to the situation regarding North Korea’s nuclear testing programmes. Given the on-going crisis with Japan regarding the Senkaku Islands and the need for their leadership to focus upon domestic issues, China is likely to stop short of imposing sanctions that could cause widespread instability. However if China were to implement some sort of short term measure, such as a temporary halt in oil supply, it would send out a stern message to Pyongyang regarding its future actions.

    Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/12/china-north-korea-nuclear-test

  4. Dr. Hui-Chi Yeh February 12, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    “Don’t forget about us. We are still here”

    by Keith D Turner

    North Korea’s testing of its third nuclear device is a reminder to us all that the DPRK is still alive and kicking, albeit, most of the time the state appears comatose. Survival is the name of the game, and the North’s strategy of threats, cross-border skirmishes and brinkmanship are all designed to remind the world that the Cold War is alive and well in North Korea.

    Any hope that a change in leadership could signal change in the DPRK is wishful thinking. The ruling North Korean Workers Party holds absolute power in North Korea and operates as a modern day Yang ban (aristocracy or privileged class) using the military to garrison the state and preserve the party’s authority and privilege. The Kim dynasty, with its progenitor Kim Il Sung who arguably held absolute power, has lost more and more power through the transition to Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, with the latest Kim filling the position of figurehead rather than power behind the party, commonly recognized to be in the hands of Kim Yong Nam (Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly) and his vice-chairmen.

    Understanding North Korea and the norms that influence its behaviour continues to challenge researchers, policy-makers and governments. There is also the issue of unification and the intractable grounds upon which each side is positioned. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is not guided by Cold War animosity, but is designed with the sole purpose of ensuring security against external direct or indirect threats to the Workers Party and its monopoly on power. To ensure this power is maintained, North Korea isolates itself from the international community keeping its citizens ignorant of historical and current events, (the DPRK argues this isolation is forced upon them rather than desired), the Party uses propaganda to impose a perpetual state of war on its people which is knitted into the fabric of society, and inculcates Juche ideology and the Kim cult of personality.

    Maintaining control and protecting privilege has destroyed the North Korean economy, caused famine, starvation, and the deaths of millions. To the Workers Party, reform and the opening up of the Korean economy poses the greatest risk to their power and privilege. As a witness to the collapse of the Soviet Union and European communism, inspired by reforms and globalization, the Workers Party continues to isolate itself and strengthen its hold on power. To these ends, the North Korean government has taken solace in the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) nature of nuclear weapons. While most states view a nuclear North Korea as a threat, the Workers Party sees most states as a threat and its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent. This is compounded by the issue of Korean unification and on what terms.

    North Korea’s nuclear weapons program also provides the DPRK with an avenue for aid and provides the propaganda material necessary to maintain its state of war and garrison state. Through brinkmanship, threats, armed conflict and provocative behaviour, North Korea has managed to secure aid for infrastructure projects, commercial ventures, oil and food, despite facing economic sanctions. North Korea’s isolationist stance periodically requires international attention, a way of announcing “Don’t forget about us. We are still here.” These moments primarily involve some military skirmish at sea, or most recently the shelling of a bordering South Korean island. These instances are often reminders to the South Koreans and US forces stationed there. When the DPRK wants to get the attention of a larger audience they fire test missiles near Japan, or launch satellites. There is also the nuclear option.

  5. Oliver Swinburn February 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    There are now signs starting to emerge that China has had enough of North Korea’s blatent refusal to abide by sanctions that have been set by the United Nations Security Council. On January 22nd China suprised its disobedient neighbour by signing on to the “United Nations Security Council Resolution 2087, tightening sanctions on North Korea to punish it for a rocket launch in December.”

    This has been viewed as a welcome sign by the rest of the World, who see China as the important power in reining in its neighbours attempts to build a nuclear arsenal. Although is this false hope? China has insisted that its main interests lies in regional stability although it seems to have moved to a similar stance on North Korea as America, Japan and South Korea have always displayed.

    A communist newspaper in China stating that North Korea had been ungrateful in recognising the efforts that China had put in to soften the UN security council sanctions and if North Korea continued with its efforts then China may be forced to reduce its assistance. With China supplying North Korea with large imports of fuel and food this comes as a significant threat.

    The consensus is however that China’s main interest remains in stability and with the survival of the Kim dynasty in North Korea seeming dependent on it Nuclear development, it may not be in Chinese interest to see the collapse of the regime. It would risk unrest and refugees flooding into China as well as a strong American influence on the otherside of Chinese borders which isn’t welcomed.

    So interest remains in the methods China will take in preventing North Korea from continuing to develop nuclear weaponary.

    Source: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21571196-china-continues-fret-over-its-troublesome-neighbour-naughty-step

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