China Supports Peace In North Korea After Missile Launches

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and said he wanted to work to create “peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and the rest of the world,” the South China Morning Post reported on November 27th. President Xi sent the message after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has launched over 70 missiles in 2022, more than in any other year.  China’s support for creating peace in North Korea could help denuclearize the country.  However, it is uncertain whether this will occur as North Korea is opposed to denuclearization, and China has done little to oppose North Korea’s missile launches.

Leaders from other countries want China to oppose North Korea’s missile launches.  According to The Japan Times, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said, “China has the capability to influence North Korea, and China has the responsibility to engage in the process.” U.S. President Joe Biden met with Xi at the G20 summit.  According to CNN, after the meeting, Biden was “confident China is not looking for North Korea to engage in further escalatory means,” but did know how much China would work to oppose North Korea’s missile launches.

The U.S. and South Korea support the denuclearization of North Korea, but neither country has been able to get North Korea to agree to denuclearization. In May 2022, Yoon  became President of South Korea, and increased military exercises due to concerns of an attack from North Korea.  This was opposed by North Korea, and caused the country to increase missile launches. Yoon’s policy toward North Korea was different from the previous President, Moon Jae-in, who was more supportive of discussing denuclearization with Kim. Biden has considered discussing denuclearization with Kim, but Kim has opposed talks due to the U.S. supporting sanctions and South Korea’s military exercises.

Although North Korea has not denuclearized, it is possible China could be more successful in supporting denuclearization.  China has more influence on North Korea as the two countries have good relations, and China is North Korea’s largest trading partner. The Diplomat reported North Korea could be more likely to agree to denuclearize if China gave North Korea aid to help modernize its economy. The modernization of North Korea’s economy would be easier if the U.S. and other countries cooperated with China, and also gave North Korea aid.  Additionally, the U.S. Institute of Peace reported China opposes military exercises by the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, which increased when North Korea launched more missiles. There would likely be less military exercises if North Korea denuclearized, because the other countries would not be concerned about an attack, and this could cause China to be supportive of encouraging North Korea to denuclearize.

China supports peace in North Korea, but opposed the United Nations making a presidential statement condemning North Korea’s missile launches.  However, the Associated Press reported Zhang Jun, China’s Ambassador to the UN, said China still supports negotiations to denuclearize North Korea, but opposed the UN statement because China wanted to deescalate tensions before starting negotiations. The UN also supports sanctions on North Korea that would make it more difficult for the country to create new missile technology.

China has opposed some sanctions on North Korea, believing it is better to resolve conflicts through negotiations.  However, North Korea is unlikely to agree to negotiations with the U.S. or South Korea. For this reason, the U.S. and South Korea should try to encourage China to convince North Korea to support denuclearization.  It is uncertain whether this would be supported by China, but it is more likely China will encourage North Korea to denuclearize if the U.S. and South Korea agree to decrease military exercises and end sanctions once denuclearization occurs.

North Korea will continue to launch missiles as it has not supported negations to denuclearize. China is more likely than other countries to be able to convince North Korea to denuclearize, but the U.S. and South Korea will need to encourage China to do this. If denuclearization occurs, relations between North and South Korea will improve, and there would be a decrease in military exercises, which China considers important for creating peace and stability in the region.