North Korea is China’s Problem Now

Source: Getty
Op-Ed CNN
Summary
The United States can help China with its North Korea problem.
Related Media and Tools
 

Beijing has long seen itself as the arbitrator between Pyongyang and Washington in addressing North Korean nuclear proliferation. China’s priorities have been peace and stability, denuclearization, and nonproliferation, in that order. So China pushed to preserve the status quo on the Korean Peninsula.

But this is changing – North Korea is now China’s problem. This means that President Obama should take full advantage of his upcoming meeting with President Xi Jinping in California to offer help in finding a way to compel Pyongyang to alter its behavior.

Of course, U.S. officials have tried in the past to demonstrate that the regional stability Beijing desires will only be achieved with denuclearization and that China has as much – if not more – at stake in ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons program. Unfortunately, U.S. urgings that North Korea is a common problem and that joint solutions are required have fallen on deaf ears.

This all started to change, however, when Kim Jong Un assumed power in North Korea. China put its credibility and patience on the line to help Kim consolidate power in the hope that he would embark upon a path of economic reform similar to China’s own experience. But Beijing’s vision was quickly dashed. In fact, over the last several months North Korea’s young (at 29 years-old, Kim is the world’s youngest head of state) and impetuous leader has taken a series of destabilizing and provocative actions that have brought the region to the brink of war.

In defiance of its most important friend, North Korea conducted a missile and nuclear test, annulled the agreement that ended the Korean War, closed the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex with South Korea, and North Koreans even kidnapped 16 Chinese fishermen, to name only a few provocations.

While some argue that Beijing doesn’t hold significant leverage to shape Pyongyang’s behavior, without China’s strong support at the United Nations and economic and humanitarian assistance, North Korea’s continued existence would be uncertain.

Despite this, North Korea goes against Beijing’s wishes and threatens the very stability China hopes to preserve, prompting even Chinese citizens to start to question if Kim is overplaying his hand in a way that will ultimately undermine China’s vital interests.

There are clear reasons for China to address its North Korea problem.

China’s security interests have evolved over the past three decades as the country has prospered and achieved feats of development unparalleled in modern history. Xi has spoken about an enhanced Chinese leadership role in the Asia-Pacific, but this goal will be hard to achieve if China is unable to rein in the reckless behavior of its unruly neighbor.

Efforts to boost China’s soft power and international image are undermined every time North Korea defies China’s pleas. And if North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities continue to advance, China should expect an enhanced U.S. security posture in the region – not something Beijing wants.

The combination of a young and irresponsible leader in Pyongyang and the evolution of China’s own security interests should make it clear to Chinese leaders that North Korea has become a problem for Beijing in new and troubling ways.

China is beginning to take steps in this direction through toughened public statements, the closure of North Korean accounts in Chinese banks, and a significant drop off in cross-border trade. South Korean President Park Geun-hye was also invited for a summit with Xi in late June, while the North Korean leader has not, despite apparent repeated requests. China is clearly sending the North Korean regime a message that business as usual is no longer acceptable.

This changes things. A new window for diplomacy is now opening as North Korea becomes more China’s problem than Washington’s – and Beijing has a responsibility to come up with credible diplomatic options.

The good news is that China doesn’t need to deal with its North Korea problem on its own. The United States and its allies all want a stable Korean Peninsula stripped of its nuclear-weapons capabilities, and are in a position to help. If China, the United States, Japan, and South Korea can respond in a unified manner, with one voice, it would be an important first step in changing North Korea’s behavior. But China must first signal its readiness to accept help from other powers.

This can all start when Xi and Obama meet in California. Obama should initiate discussion on the North Korea problem and work to establish the personal relationship required to enhance cooperation on the issue. The stakes are too high to let this moment pass.

This article was originally published by CNN.

End of document

Comments (1)

 
 
  • Thomas W. Makin, former Envoy, Nixon Administration, 1972
    Paul, I need to express my thoughts today about the situation regarding Mr. Kenneth Bae in North Korea who has been sentenced to 15 years of labor at a farm location somewhere in North Korea due to his activities of promoting Christian grouping in North Korea, which is seen as an act of illegal collusion which can, in effect, compromise the defenses of the North Korea government in theory over a long period of time. I must agree, this kind of thing could happen.   I do not know what Mr. Bae had in mind when he was working, but it is obvious that he did not know that he was violating the law with his work. The laws in North Korea are written to preserve the administration, and some of the principles which support these laws are something that we are just beginning to understand. I want North Korea to develop the ability to produce electrical power to sell to Asia,; and thus, compromise the risks of military instability that we face today.
     
     
    Reply to this post

     
    Close Panel
Source http://carnegietsinghua.org/2013/06/06/north-korea-is-china-s-problem-now/g939

More from The Global Think Tank

In Fact

 

45%

of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.

30%

of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.

140

charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.

2.5–5

thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.

92%

of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.

$2.34

trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.

37%

of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.

72%

of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.

90%

of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.

13%

of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.

17

U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.

40%

of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.

120

million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.

60–70%

of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.

58%

of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.

67%

of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.

50%

of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.

18%

of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.

81%

of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.

32

million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3

Syrians

now needs urgent assistance.

370

political parties

contested India’s last national elections.

70%

of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.

70%

of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.

20%

of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.

58%

of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.

$536

billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.

$100

billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.

4700%

increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.

$11

billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.

2%

of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.

78

journalists

were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address in the field below to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
 
 
Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
 
No. 1 East Zhongguancun Street, Building 1 Tsinghua University Science Park Innovation Tower, Room B1202C Haidian District, Beijing 100084 China
Phone: + 86 10 8215 0178 Fax: + 86 10 6270 3536