News / Asia

North Korea Nuclear Test Could Further Fray Ties With China

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds up a parliament membership certificate during the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 9, 2014.
FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds up a parliament membership certificate during the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 9, 2014.
William Ide
North Korea says it could soon carry out its fourth nuclear test.  If it does, analysts say China is likely to support tougher sanctions at the United Nations, and even carry out some actions of its own. It is not clear whether Beijing has enough leverage to deter the North's leader Kim Jong Un from taking other actions to forward his nuclear ambitions.  
 
On Saturday, North Korea renewed its threat to carry out its fourth nuclear test.  

Statements published in state media say Pyongyang’s resolve to further its nuclear plans is a matter of protecting its sovereignty and dignity. North Korea says it is facing threats from the United States and South Korea.
 
It is not clear how close Pyongyang is to carrying out the test. South Korea’s defense ministry says preparations for the test appear to be nearing completion.  
 
Alexander Neill, a senior fellow for Asian security with the Shangri-La Dialogue, said, “I think the weight of evidence seems to suggest that a test is going to happen quite soon.”

Complex relationship

China has long been one of North Korea’s few friends and many believe Beijing is the one country that can sway Pyongyang. Following last year’s nuclear test, Beijing began taking a tougher approach, temporarily halting tourism and terminating dealings between the Bank of China and a key North Korean bank.  
 
Political scientist Shi Yinhong of Beijing’s Renmin University said a fourth test would mean tougher measures. “China will shape with other permanent members U.N. sanction resolutions, and China will probably launch its own unilateral and national sanctions, including some measures which China has not taken in the past. This could represent China’s advance of it’s hard response to North Korea’s very dangerous actions,” said Shi.
 
Neill said there is a range of measures China could take, but limits to what Beijing can do. “China could halt food aid to the North, it could halt fuel supplies and it could put pressure on the North in a number of other areas, particularly things like Chinese investment in the North. But, China ultimately needs to strategically balance this by maintaining the North as a buffer zone on the Korean peninsula,” he said.

Beijing also is growing increasingly challenged by the unpredictability of Kim Jong Un, and that has further frayed ties and led to a toughening of China’s stance.
 
“I think that as a statesman and political leader, Xi Jinping has often behaved as more determined and more resolute," said Renmin University’s Shi. "Also, I think that Kim Jong Un, the son, unlike his father Kim Jong Il is more volatile, more adventurous and more even unfriendly toward China, so I think that this kind of a situation will make any of China’s leaders take some [steps] that are at least a little harder.”

Last year, Kim executed his uncle, a man who favored China’s economic model and played a key role in maintaining relations between the two countries.
 
Since he assumed power, Kim has yet to visit China. But South Korea’s president has met with China's leader several times, and next month Xi  is expected to travel to Seoul.

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Comments
     
by: Thomas Reimel from: Montgomery County Pa
May 17, 2014 5:54 PM
If the PRC wishes to be taken seriously by the West as the rightful hegemon on East Asia, it needs to use its good offices in reigning in the Hermit Kingdom.

by: Jon Base from: Asia
May 17, 2014 11:41 AM
Because of the red China, the world suffers a lot, especially the N, Koreans . China is a blood sucking devil.

by: Anthonybellchambers from: London UK
May 15, 2014 11:59 AM
The way to break the deadlock is for Israel to submit its huge undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal to IAEA inspection by the UN. There is no other solution. Israel is the elephant in the room.

by: John
May 15, 2014 7:32 AM
No doubt the Chinese are using this red herring to distract the US from supporting the Philippines and Vietnam in their disputes with China over the South China Sea. One presumes the implied quid pro quo is support for the US in its efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula if it backs off from support of Japan and the Philippines and doesn't attempt to ally itself with Vietnam.

by: Robert from: South AFrica
May 13, 2014 12:28 PM
Kim Jong Un should be undergoing "mental tests" and not nuclear tests and China should amend its "chameleon-like" diplomacy and flag waving.

by: Jacob Tompkins
May 13, 2014 6:33 AM
If I were the Chinese Government I would make North Korea reform or take them over by force for human rights abuses and national security. China knows very well the risk of a fragile government having nukes on their boarder regardless of their alliance. I believe Kim killing his uncle brought back memories of feudal China to those in the Chinese government and they cherish order and stability above parasitic alliances. If China defeated the North and reunited Korean they'd have a stronger alliance with Korea and could get the USA out of the DMZ since they wouldn't be needed to protect the south anymore and China would be able to invest in the undeveloped north and have a much stronger trading partner in a United Korea.

by: meanbill from: USA
May 12, 2014 6:13 PM
China owes a forever lasting debt to the Korean communists, who lost over two million men and women fighting with the Chinese Red army against Japan, the US and European supplied Chinese Nationalists, and Mao lost his only son fighting for the North Koreans against the US and the South Koreans...
REMEMBER? -- China doesn't interfere in other countries politics, and they just want peaceful resolutions to all other country conflicts... China just wants peace on the Korean Peninsula, and Korean talks without threats and red lines?
In Response

by: 이용환 from: Korea
May 17, 2014 9:13 PM
I think you are Chinese, right? You are deceived by your government.

by: Musawi Melake
May 12, 2014 3:47 PM
It's not unusuall to see this kind of behavior from a country lilke China, which might have been falsely believed to be the beloved fried of North-Korea. It's human nature to expect someone to be subservient to oneself, and it's the thing the Chinese wanted to see in Korea, that every time there's something thereatening, the North-Koreans needed to run for help from China, but when the Chinese saw that Koreans could defend themselved on their own adn if necessary, stand against China, things were different. This happened to Mao's communists and the Soviets, when the latter wanted Mao to be subservient. So, it's high time the youn leader in Korea to break out of the cist and see the world as it is and seek real friends outside, advance his country like Mao and successors did.
In Response

by: charlesSolomon from: California
May 16, 2014 3:00 PM
China will be forced to invade and takeover north korea for economic reasons alone. With a unified korea and jung on gone along with his rogue military, the US DMZ is superflous, will be removed and the trade benefits for ALL speak for themselves. China President Xi Jinping: Please get rid of jung on. The little tyrant is impeding on china's economic prosperity.

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