China Faces a Nettlesome Neighbor in North Korea

With today’s escalation of tensions between North and South Korea, the New York Times looks at China’s role in the conflict:

Despite its impoverishment and heavy dependence on Chinese aid and support, North Korea seems to regularly defy every Chinese diplomatic initiative, from Beijing’s work to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free to its efforts to prevent a violent confrontation.

China’s influence is rising steadily around the world. But the problem of how to manage North Korea, its Communist neighbor and onetime ally, appears to befuddle China’s leaders, who stumble from indulging the North to sending occasional signals of pique, all without persuading the country to adopt a path toward greater openness or stability.

“At the moment China has limited influence,” said Cai Jian, a professor of Korean studies at Fudan University. “On one hand it’s unhappy with North Korean actions and its provocative behavior, but on the other hand it still has to support North Korea.”

The support continues because China fears that the vacuum created by a sudden collapse there would open the door to rule by South Korea, “and that will put an American military alliance on the doorstep of China.”

See also: “US, China want ‘restraint’ on Korean peninsula: US envoy” from AFP.

November 23, 2010 11:47 PM
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