China’s relations with its neighbour – North Korea

14 Feb

China’s relationship with its unstable neighbour has once again been put under the spotlight after Tuesday’s nuclear tests that took place underground. As the Chinese diplomats were celebrating the New Lunar Year, its communist neighbours were testing nuclear weapons.

Many are now calling for the six-party talks, which were created in 2003 when Korea opted out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, to be reconvened between the two historical allies. However, talks were last held in 2007 and North Korea announced that it would never reconvene.

So what can China do?

China still remains key in the UNSC vote with the power to veto sanctions, which it has threatened to do in the past, but China has recently demonstrated their diplomatic power on the world stage by working with the US to impose sanctions on North Korea. However these obviously haven’t had the desired effect.

Another option is to squash Korea’s economy. China accounts for 70% of Korea’s trade and if they were to impose economic sanctions this would have adverse effects on Korea, where as this would only be a drop in the ocean for China where Korea only make up 1% of China’s trade.

Similarly, China could cut off its aid to North Korea, of which it is a crucial supplier of food.  However this would only affect the poor citizens of the communist regime rather than the elites.

The cutting off of Koreas oil supply by China, of which they supply half a million tonnes of oil a year, would also have a destructive effect on the country.

Many believe that China wont ‘cut off’ North Korea just yet due to the adverse effects a collapsed North Korean state would create – instability in the region, an influx of refugees into China and also China would no longer have its ‘buffer’ against US troops in the area. However, recent events are clearly beginning to test Chinese patience with its neighbour…



North Koreas ally China condemns nuclear test:

China’s patience with North Korea wears thin after latest nuclear test:

North Korea Nuke Test Could Test China’s Patience:

China’s delicate balancing act with North Korea:


2 Responses to “China’s relations with its neighbour – North Korea”

  1. de1g11 February 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    The main issue for this diplomatic hot spot is what does China have to gain versus what does it have to lose. If It supports America and the harsh UN sanctions then it will likely to be more supported by the west. If it supports North Korea more, or it transpires that China has always been helping the North Koreans more than first known then there buffer zone will be secure.

    This example of North Korea shows Chinese foreign policy in a microcosm. The approach is vague and ambiguous, that is more worrying to the west than China deciding which side of the fence it wishes to come down on.

  2. Zoe Skousbo February 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    China’s responses to its once close ally North Korea’s incessant nuclear testing do seem to be increasing in their irate nature, with messages of condemnation following each North Korean attempt at a successful nuclear detonation. Despite pressure from the West to increase sanctions on its troubled neighbour, the Chinese government seem aware of the adverse implications of these actions and consequently appear reluctant to do so. North Korea, with its new but no less unstable leader Kim Jong-Un, would suffer devastating economic circumstances were China to sever its ties to North Korea, thus denying the country the aid that its famine-stricken poor desperately need.

    With China’s on-going crisis with Japan over the disputed Diaoyu Islands showing no signs of abating, the country would be ill advised to increase any tensions with its other neighbour Korea, particularly as China would bear the brunt of any fallout in the shape of masses of refugees. It is in China’s best interests therefore to keep North Korea appeased, at least for the time being; although this approach will undoubtedly not improve China’s relations with an increasingly agitated West who are keen to punish North Korea for its provocative displays of military power.

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