China Continues To Prioritize Regional Peace Over Denuclearization On The Korean Peninsula


North Korea continues its provocative behaviour. This week, North Korea tested ground-to-sea cruise missiles and claimed it a success. The ground-to-sea missile test was the fifth test in under a month, which was presumably in defiance of international pressures, mainly coming from the Trump administration, to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. North Korea recently stated that it “is not far away” from test firing an ICBM. However, international reports suggest that they will not have IBM capacity that is capable of hitting the US coastal waters until 2020.

Yet again, the policy community and journalists around the world are calling on China to stop North Korea in its tracks. They say that China could force North Korea to denuclearize due to the strong diplomatic relations and economic ties it has with North Korea.

Regarding North Korea, China’s primary concerns are as follows: first, stability in East Asia; second, North Korea continuing as a state; and third, denuclearization on the peninsula. China wants to ensure that North Korea does not collapse for the following reasons: China fears that North Korea may reunite with the South Korean government that is allied to the US, and/or that refugees could overflow into the eight hundred mile border China shares with North Korea.

China has demonstrated to the international community through economic sanctions that it is willing to commit to inducing North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. China’s recent decision to comply with a UN resolution and suspend coal imports to North Korea indicates that they are willing to try to convince Kim Jong-Un to stop his nuclear provocations. This is encouraging, however, many question whether China’s economic sanction measures truly have the aim of persuading North Korea to denuclearize.

Furthermore, China is North Korea’s main importer and remains key to North Korea achieving economic autarky. Despite the sanctions, economically, China’s trading with North continues to account for 90% of North Korea’s total trade. The North Korean-Chinese economic ties are continuing to prosper in the face of the U.S. and its allies insistence that North Korea should give up its nuclear weapons program or else be alienated from the international community. With that said, it appears that China may not be exerting enough pressure on North Korea in order to truly convince them to change its provocative behaviours and brinksmanship. Therefore, China’s actions on the peninsula continue to favour regional peace over denuclearization. As such, China needs to engage diplomatically with North Korea in an economic sanctions regime before a potential military confrontation occurs.

The U.S. should continue to encourage China to comply with the global sanctions measures and increase them in order to show North Korea that they are united in ensuring the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Lucas Mirani

Lucas Mirani

Lucas Mirani is a 23 year old university student at the Australian National University. He is majoring in Psychology and Asia-Pacific Security Studies and wants to work in foreign affairs.
Lucas Mirani

About Lucas Mirani

Lucas Mirani is a 23 year old university student at the Australian National University. He is majoring in Psychology and Asia-Pacific Security Studies and wants to work in foreign affairs.