Chinese Pressure To Halt North Korean Nuclear Test Increases

7 02 2013

Tsar_Bomba(6 February 2013, NKnews.ORG) With North Korea threatening to go beyond a third nuclear test in response to what it sees as “hostile” sanctions imposed after the December rocket launch, Chinese pressure to halt a North Korean nuclear test appears to be mounting at considerable pace.

Building on high level talks held yesterday between Washington and Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters today that Beijing is “extremely concerned by the way things are going…We oppose any behavior which may exacerbate the situation and [urge] relevant sides to exercise restraint and earnestly work hard to maintain peace.”

Chunying’s comments came following an agreement  yesterday that the U.S. and China would “work together” to deal with the pending nuclear test, made public after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and China’s Foreign Minister talked by phone for the first time since Kerry took office.

On the subject of the call, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that both China and the U.S. agreed that North Korea should face “further consequences” if it violates UN Security Council resolutions with another test. Nuland also emphasized that the conversation between the two were “remarkably similar” to ones Kerry had in previous days with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

Beyond publicized Sino-American rhetoric, a senior Seoul diplomat told Yonhap News that he was aware that China was making its “own efforts” to persuade North Korea to cancel the test, although he did not elaborate on what those efforts were. The diplomat also said that China was taking the nuclear test “seriously.”

Outside of the diplomatic realm, an editorial in the English language Global Times today detailed Chinese displeasure even further, warning that Pyongyang would pay a “heavy price” for a third nuclear test and that China should “shatter any illusions Pyongyang may have” about not being punished.

While the editorial did note that Beijing would unlikely support the type of heavy sanctions that the U.S. and South Korea will likely demand in the event of a test, it underscored that China should support “reduced assistance” to North Korea and said that, “if Pyongyang gets tough with China, China should strike back hard.”

But despite all of the increasing rhetoric, North Korea expert Leonid Petrov today NK NEWS that in reality China is probably not that concerned about a further nuclear test.

Beijing policymakers know better than anyone how to benefit from Pyongyang’s insecurity and increasing international isolation. More sanctions against the DPRK means better deals for Chinese entrepreneurs operating in North Korea and increased dependency of Kim Jong-Un’s regime on China’s security assurance. A nuclear armed and unmanageable Pyongyang poses no threat to China but keeps its regional competitors anxiously overspending on their own national defense and security.

However, Chinese experts quoted yesterday in the Hong Kong daily Ming Pao have different thoughts. Shen Dingli, Executive Deputy Dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Fudan University, said that the planned nuclear test and rocket launch had already harmed China’s core interests, and that Pyongyang should be prepared to “bear the consequences” and “prepare itself for tougher international sanctions.”

In the same report Fan Jishe, a researcher on U.S. studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, went further and criticized Pyongyang for “embarrassing China” and “impeding [the progress of] Sino-U.S. relations.” He also criticized North Korea for implicitly blaming China for its “blind obedience” to Washington in the recent United Nations condemnation of the December rocket launch.

Amid the increasing pressure, Yonhap News suggests that the North Korean media’s decision to avoid citing Chinese media or report on Chinese news in recent weeks shows a growing spat between two countries once regarded as being as close as “lips and teeth”.  A screening of KCNA, Rodong Sinmun, KCTV, Radio Pyongyang and Chosun Central TV showed that following the passage of the Chinese supported UN Security Council Resolution on Jan. 23, there had been almost no mention of China in the North Korean media.

Tensions between China and North Korea have been on the increase recently, with public disagreements bubbling over in areas even outside of the nuclear realm. Less than two weeks ago Pyongyang reportedly hit out at Beijing for allowing reports to circulate that Kim Jong Un may have had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather Kim Il Sung.

Some suggest that China is the most important party in efforts both to dissuade North Korea from conducting a nuclear test, though others suggest Beijing’s influence is much more limited than leaders in the U.S. and South Korea like to think.

China has been traditionally uncooperative in pushing North Korea too hard, officially due to worries over fanning political and further economic instability in its neighbor.

To date, Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, the first in 2006 and the second in 2009. Both times China ensured that sanctions on North Korea avoided inflicting too much economic damage.

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China’s N.Korea Influence on Wane

6 04 2009

The Australian (April 06, 2009)

kimyongiihu-jin-taoBEIJING: North Korea’s rocket launch showed China did not have as much influence on Kim Jong-il’s regime as some believed, despite being its main economic and political ally, analysts said. Leading up to the launch, China came under widespread pressure to use its influence on its communist neighbour not to go ahead.

North Korea had said it was launching a communications satellite, but the US, South Korea and Japan were concerned it was actually a long-range missile and said North Korea breached a UN Security Council resolution.

China undoubtedly has more influence with North Korea than anyone else, as evidenced by Mr Kim’s visit to Beijing last month and other high-level contacts between the two countries. But John Feffer of the US-based Institute for Policy Studies said the secretive regime in Pyongyang did not in any way feel beholden to the leadership in Beijing. “The historical ties and ideological similarities no longer exert any influence,” Mr Feffer said. “North Korea is dubious of ‘older brother’ pressure” and “does not want a subservient relationship”.

Leonid Petrov, an associate researcher at the Australian National University, said China would have made its views about the rocket launch known to the regime in Pyongyang. “But (China) does it very cautiously out of fear of losing its remaining leverage on North Korea,” he said.  China wanted to keep its influence for a time when it was really needed to protect its interests.

The UN Security Council was due to meet overnight to discuss the launch, but experts said China, a permanent member of the council, was likely to veto any move for sanctions on its ally.

Mr Petrov said proof of China’s weak hand with North Korea came when Pyongyang conducted its first and only atomic test in October 2006. A Chinese envoy was the first foreign official to meet Mr Kim in Pyongyang soon after the test, which lifted North Korea’s nuclear programs to the top of the global political agenda. North Korea defied Chinese calls not to go ahead with the test and Pyongyang informed Beijing of the test only 20 minutes in advance, Mr Petrov said.

Analysts say one way China can exert some influence on the impoverished nation is through the delivery of food and energy. North Korea’s economy, ravaged by poor economic planning and international sanctions, is largely kept afloat by China. Last year, Beijing increased its exports to North Korea by 46 per cent to more than $US2billion ($2.79 billion), according to Chinese figures, accounting for a large proportion of the nation’s food and energy supplies. These deliveries have in the past been used by China to put pressure on Pyongyang.

“China has applied pressure in the past to get North Korea to come to the negotiating table and take more flexible positions,” Mr Feffer said. China is reluctant to use this leverage too dramatically because it dreads triggering an influx of refugees across its 1400km-long porous border with North Korea. “I am not sure if China has any significant level of influence over North Korea,” said Jing-dong Yuan, director of the East Asia non-proliferation program at the US-based Monterey Institute of International Studies.

AFP





Questions from NK Monitor

22 03 2008

NK_province_truck

NK Monitor has asked many interesting questions. I hope my answers are not completely wrong.

>Some (anecdotal) evidence seems to suggest that the public distribution system, especially in the border regions, is breaking down…

– Apparently, the PDS has been revitalized all across the country after 2003. It can break down again only if the government is collapsing or there is nothing to distribute. So far, these do not seem to be the case.

> …and as this happens, the jangmadang are increasingly filling this gap.

– This is why the “farmers’ markets” (jangmadang) were officially permitted in 2002-2003 virtually in every district and village. Moreover, after the 2005 crackdown on private selling activity, people still trade and speculate but discreetly, at night. The authorities know about that but seldom react.

> Imaginably, some of this food, especially up in the border areas, is imported from China. Assuming a large percentage of the food in that region is imported from China, wouldn’t that drive up prices in the region ?

– Food (and other goods) come from China as the result of barter (non-cash) deals with North Koreans. The food prices are growing, so the prices on the commodities which North Korea is exporting.

>(Also, due to predicted food shortages locally-produced food prices will no doubt rise as well).

– Yes, in jangmadangs the food prices rise and fall seasonally. But the prices on food sold through the PDS is likely to stay at the same level. PDS remains for the central government an important stabilizing factor which buys it time to look for survival paths.

>And as those traders start accumulating power and money and coalesce together, is it possible that this could contribute to the formation of “fiefdoms” along the border area that are autonomous and able to resist the central government?

– This process began in the early 2000s, when economic freedoms were hardly controlled from the centre. After 2005, when Pyongyang gained momentum, many of the freedoms associated with “7.1 economic measures” were curtailed. Recently, the government began to crack down on collective property on the means of production (trucks, buses, machinery) to undermine their ability to earn cash and barter.

And, the most important, you cannot “resist the central government” in societies like North Korea unless you feel suicidal…

LP