News / Asia

China's Military Unmoved by North Korean Threats

Chinese military officers are shown the way as they arrive outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 4, 2013.
Chinese military officers are shown the way as they arrive outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 4, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
As the United States and South Korean militaries closely track North Korea’s troops, military hardware and missiles, China has said little about what precautions its forces are taking.  China has the longest border with North Korea but analysts say Beijing is focused on maintaining stability and has little concern of being affected by hostilities. 

But as Pyongyang ramped up its war rhetoric, the United States flew stealth bombers from the state of Missouri to South Korea and moved a missile defense system to the island Guam. South Korea dispatched war ships to patrol its waters. Korean intelligence announced it was tracking North Korean missile launchers moving to the east, but no large movements of troops or hardware.

Meanwhile, North Korea's only ally, China, has made no visible military posturing of its own, despite a 1961 mutual defense treaty.

China has long valued stability in the Korean peninsula to prevent large refugee flows across the border.  But, analysts say those concerns are exaggerated.

Carl Baker, director of programs at the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu, said there are no verifiable reports of any significant military buildup along the border.

“China remains concerned about a flow of refugees but it's not it's not like it's going to be a big problem for China," said Baker. "If you look at the numbers, you know, the number of refugees that could move out of North Korea would be an inconvenience but it certainly wouldn't be a disaster for China to be able to handle folks that came over the border.  But, again, I don't see any real evidence that there's a large number of troops moving up in that region.”

Earlier this month, western media outlets, quoting unnamed sources, reported that there have been signs of a Chinese troop buildup on the border with North Korea in in preparation for refugees should war break out. The German news agency DPA reported China's buildup was also aimed at securing North Korea's nuclear facilities, while a Washington Times report said it indicated Beijing was willing to back Pyongyang militarily. The unconfirmed reports were translated and repeated on some Chinese websites and blogs but dismissed by most analysts.

In public comments China's Ministry of Defense has only repeated statements urging all sides to ease tensions, initiate dialogue and maintain regional peace and stability.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
China shares a 1,400 kilometer border with North Korea, five times longer than the border with South Korea, known as the demilitarized zone.

Unlike the heavily guarded border between the North and the South, the border with China, though watched by the military, is surprisingly open. Beijing in recent years built fences along parts of the border but much of it remains porous, including narrow areas of the Tumen River that freeze in winter and can be easily walked across.

It is still in Beijing's interest to prevent conflict that could bring U.S. troops to its borders, said Euan Graham, senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. 

"The logic of North Korea as a buffer still, I think, has currency within, particularly military circles in China," he said. "I think there is an element that in a broader, strategic view, China is calibrating its strategy in the context of the U.S. rebalance to Asia. And, although North Korea may be a recalcitrant and counterproductive ally, from many points of view, for Beijing it's the only one its got.”

North Korea owes its existence to China's military support during the Korean War. Just as North Korea was being overrun, Beijing turned the tide of the war by sending an estimated two million soldiers to drive back U.S.-led United Nations troops.  

China once characterized its relations with North Korea as “close as lips and teeth.”
 
But, Pyongyang's belligerence, and pursuit of nuclear weapons, has led Beijing to support U.N. sanctions against it. And, in what some analysts see as a snub, North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un has yet to visit Beijing since taking his father's place.

Unlike Kim Jong Il who died in 2011, Kim Jong Un does not know how far he can push China's patience, Graham said.

"Kim Jong Il was of course very practiced at being able to co-opt that red line with China but never quite crossing it.  This is the risky element to having a young and inexperienced leader who may, through overconfidence, step over that line," he said. "Because, of course, the more that North Korea develops its nuclear and missile capabilities the greater that risk of overconfidence becomes."

Meanwhile, China watchers are looking for any indications of a change in official policy toward North Korea.  Baker said they should also keep a close eye on developing relations between Beijing and Seoul.

“You know, ultimately, I think for China the real competition in North Korea is between itself and South Korea," he said. "And so I think that's what we need to really watch, is how this relationship between South Korea and China develops now that we've had this sort of, you know, belligerent confrontation between South and North, where does China really fall?  How much does it support North Korea, how much does it support South Korea?”

South Korea and the U.S. are trying to break North Korea's long-held pattern of raising tensions to push for diplomatic and economic concessions, said Baker.

China, meanwhile, continues to urge restraint and a return to the international talks to end North Korea's nuclear program.

The six nation talks involving China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States, began in 2003 but ended in 2009 when Pyongyang quit.  Efforts to restart negotiations last year were scuttled in December when Pyongyang tested a long-range missile and then in February tested its third nuclear device.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Robert Ezergailis from: Canada
April 10, 2013 7:58 AM
When we, in the west, look at expressions of "expert" Chinese opinion on international events, coming from China, in the media, we need to consider a simple fact about China. It is always the communist party that controls the truth, and reinforces public perception that it has privilege to that truth, while others are proven far more likely in error. To be part of such a system, the outsider has to play the fool or clown, making mistakes, and thus many academics play the clown on international affairs, creating a false sense of freedom of opinion and expression when in fact they are systemically constrained.

A difference can be found when referring to members of the Communist Party Central School, which shares in the communist party privilege to truth and the deliberate and continual reinforcement of that in relation to the people. To enact that reinforcement the Party School, when it chooses to express something, needs to be proven right far more often than others, such as those who teach in other schools or express opinion outside the official party organs. Itis for that reason that recent pronouncements by Zhang Liangui, of the Central Party School are particularly worrisome in relation to the current tensiosn between North Korea and the South, and as to the growing tensions with the United States.


by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
April 08, 2013 6:56 PM
Putin of Russia has already commented that DPRK poses security problems to Russia and the neighboring countries. The President of China has indirectly commented about the threat to world peace by DPRK. China should be concerned with the developments in DPRK because there is a chance for thousands of refugees crossing the long porus border with DPRK. Since China is the only country tolerating the unstable baby dictator of North Korea, any change in policy against DPRK will produce the same nuclear threats to China as that of the US, South Korea and Japan.


by: RenoG from: USA
April 08, 2013 2:26 PM
Actually, Pyongyang tested it's third nuclear device on Feb. 12th 2013. Six-party talks were a waste of time anyways. Kim Jong-Il only showed up twice. All we can hope is that if tensionsescalate to war, China will see N. Korea as the primary provocation and refuse to send their own PLA to respond when S.Korea and the United States react to an inevitable engagment between the North and South.


by: Dang Kim Lai from: Canada
April 08, 2013 1:35 PM
The regime of North Korea was controlled by Beijing. I thought it is the weiki game of Chinese military hawks, they pushed Kim Jong Un, a young and inexperince leader, to make the threats to U.S., they could observe the re-deployment of American weapons and missiles aiming to China.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid