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North Korea testing limits of tolerance

(Global Times)

08:19, May 07, 2013

According to the London Telegraph, an apartment in a tower block in Dandong, the largest Chinese city on the China-North Korea border, was shut down by Chinese authorities in March. That apartment has been reported as a "key financial node in North Korea's weapons of mass destruction apparatus."

Some media outlets are guessing that this shows China can no longer bear North Korea's belligerent actions. There are increasing speculations about whether China will change its policy toward North Korea.

The Pyongyang regime has repeatedly clamored for war recently. As one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and also a major neighbor of North Korea, China's actions on this issue will definitely draw global attention, especially since Beijing has recently imposed its own sanctions on North Korea to punish its continuously unfriendly actions toward China and other actions, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took office, that may threaten peace in Korean Peninsula.

Beijing voted for UN sanctions on North Korea in March, and it has already strictly inspected North Korea's illegal banks in China.

China has its difficulties in dealing with the North Korean issue. The US and its military allies have enhanced their strategic deployment around the peninsula. Such military deployments exert huge negative impact on China's security interests. However, China cannot blame the US for making these deployments because according to the US, these arrangements are aimed at North Korea. China has to punish North Korea for its stirring up regional instability. But China cannot permanently cut off its military assistance to North Korea as the West is trying to persuade China to do.

In short, we cannot simply "abandon" North Korea. No matter the nature of the regime in North Korea, China always has security interests in the Korean Peninsula.

Beijing has already adjusted its policies toward North Korea. Targeting North Korea's unfriendly actions, which have threatened peace on the peninsula, China has issued warnings and punishments. The relationship between China and North Korea has reached its lowest point since 1953.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that China wants to completely abandon North Korea. North Korea is not a satellite state of China. We cannot "abandon" it. China's punishment and sanctions on North Korea are aimed to maintain our own security interests.

Previously, China was always friendly toward North Korea, while receiving only a few positive responses. The current problem is that since Kim Jong-un's coming to power, China has received almost no positive response from the North.

But even so, we cannot draw the conclusion that the Kim Jong-un administration will never respond positively to China.

Nevertheless, not abandoning North Korea cannot be equalized to China admitting the North's status as a nuclear weapons state. Denuclearization has always been one of China's principles on the North Korean issue. No country believes that North Korea wants to pursue peace by owning nuclear weapons.

Some scholars have raised the possibility that if China does not admit North Korea's nuclear status and doesn't meet North Korea's requirements, and Washington then sends friendly messages to North Korea, a North Korea that possesses nuclear weapons may put pressure on China in return.

For my part, it is just one possibility. North Korea's mistrust toward the US is deeply rooted, just like its dependence on China.

The Pyongyang regime and the juche ideology have their own quirks. North Korea has little trust in China, let alone the US. If Pyongyang completely cuts down its relationship with China and turns to the US, it will worry about the future integrity of its regime.

But such a situation may appear strategically. North Korea has long been playing such games with China and the US. We can take this possibility into account, but need not worry a lot about it.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Shu Meng based on an interview with Shi Yinhong, director of the Center of US Studies at Renmin University of China.

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