Communist China has long been a question mark when it comes to the ongoing situation on the Korean Peninsula. Fortunately, despite China’s constant support for the North Korean regime, Beijing has recently agreed to apply pressure on dictator Kim Jong-un.
On Sunday, China followed up new UN sanctions on North Korea by giving a pointed warning. “Do not violate the UN’s decision or provoke international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. China is also supporting the UN sanctions. This financial squeeze was tentatively embraced by the Trump administration, as China has publicly criticized North Korea for its recent missile tests, according to ABC News.
The new UN sanctions on North Korea include a ban on imports that could cost the country $1 billion.
While American ambassador to the United Nations, South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley, stated that the US “is taking and will continue to take prudent defensive measures to protect ourselves and our allies,” China was congratulated by the US for its “important contributions” to the new sanctions.
This is a marked turnaround for Beijing, who just last week joined Russia in denouncing America’s decision to deploy THAAD anti-missile weapons systems to South Korea.
North Korea has reacted to these new sanctions by decrying the UN’s decision as unfair. Pyongyang also warned the US that a “severe lesson” would be dished out unless America stopped trying to impede North Korea’s nuclear missile program. Such threats have a new potency now that the latest North Korean missile tests proved that the communist dictatorship could strike beyond Alaska and Hawaii.
Some experts have proffered the idea that North Korea’s intransigence on the nuclear issue is based on their interpretation of Libya, a former North Korean ally. Muammar Gaddafi’s fate was actually cited by the North Korean regime during their last nuclear test.
In North Korean eyes, when Gaddafi volunteered to give up his missile program in order to appease the West, he left himself open for Western-backed regime change. As unhinged as the North Korean dictatorship may be, this interpretation of recent history is entirely rational and somewhat based on fact.
For China, the activities of their northern neighbor are not conducive to China’s growing hegemony in East Asia. Beneath Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s admonitions to his North Korean colleague to abide by UN rules, there is a conceit that North Korea’s rogue actions harm China’s business empire.
Overall, the entire UN sanctions are as follows: the importation of seafood, coal, and iron ore from North Korea is banned, countries cannot hire new North Korean workers, new investments in joint ventures involving North Korea are not allowed, and several North Korean citizens have had their assets frozen and have been placed under travel bans.
The North Koreans seem to scoff at the idea of international sanctions in their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Will China’s warning change the quest for weapons of mass destruction?
It remains to be seen whether or not any of these sanctions will have an impact on North Korea’s growing armament industry. Also, the Trump administration has signaled that it is worried about backsliding on the part of China and Russia.
As much as China should be commended for finally taking a firm stand against the saber rattling of Pyongyang, it must be recognized that Beijing does not want the North Korean regime to fall. They may be happy to see Kim Jong-un go, but they do not want North Korea to become a capitalist democracy. Such a transition would not only cause a refugee crisis in Asia (many North Korean refugees would likely find a home among the Korean-majority villages and cities of northeastern China) but would potentially threaten the political stability of China itself.