Why does China support North Korea - Essay Example

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China is the country that knows the North Korea most. The two main reason why that China supports North Korea throughout the past years until now is to keep the Korean Peninsula divided for China’s own…
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Jin Woung Go Term Paper SISEA 213A Yong-Chool, Ha Why does China support North Korea? Why does China support one of the most isolated countries, North Korea? China is the country that knows the North Korea most. The two main reason why that China supports North Korea throughout the past years until now is to keep the Korean Peninsula divided for China’s own benefit and to make the region steady. China needs a peaceful circumstance to be successful in developing their economy as they are very focusing on economic growth. Therefore, for China, any problems they may face should be completely avoided (Lankov, 2010). In short, China wants the stability of their own country and the avoidance of war by supporting North Korea as the top priorities.
The Korean Peninsula is very tiny compared to the size of United States. North Korea is located in the northern part of the Peninsula and shares borders with the People’s Republic of China along the Yalu River. North Korea stays between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Korea. North Korea has a firm idea of self-reliance (Chaju), self-sufficiency (Charip), and self-defense and does not make relations with capitalist or imperialist countries like South Korea for a long time. As most people may know, North Korea is one of the most isolated countries in the world today. Since the summit between North and South Korea in 2000, the relations of them has been increased so much. The relationship of them was formed much after World War II and still has a great deal of its foreign policy evident from its recent developments. However, North Korea does not have a good relations with the United States and it makes North Korea’s relations with other countries since 2001 (Coleman, 2010).
International Trade
Even though the Juche Ideology of Kim has an emphasis on self-sufficiency, North Korea has been getting help from China and does trade with other countries in spite of their ideology. Despite of their isolation, according to the statistics from IMF(International Moneytary Fund), it showed that North Korea had some trade with 80 of the 182 major countries. Because North Korea cannot produce enough quantities of their daily needs things or technology, the foreign countries especially China’s economic sector has a very crucial role for them. However, North Korea needs to find sources of foreign exchange other than from their overtly traded exports for paying the imports because they do not export enough to pay for their imports which causes them deficit. According to Nanto & Avery, some experts pointed out that North Korea kind of forces the United States, South Korea, Japan, etc for the aid by using their militiary power. Those illegal activities has helped North Korea to pay for the imports (Nanto & Chanlett-Avery, 2009). The terrible economic situation of North Korea gives few advantages to them. It makes China, the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Russia to help North Korea for halting and breaking its nuclear program. These five countries and North Korea forms the six parties, who are engaged in discussions to to resolve issues raised the country’s development of a nuclear weapon. The six party talks are now stalled. And the authority of Western remains limited but China (with little extent Russia) is in a position to put pressure on North Korea.
Kim Jong-Il’s regime can develop its military, constitutes an important push factor for potential refugees seeking to flee the country, and stay in power if the economy of North Korea is in stable condition. It also makes pressures for the country to trade in arms or engage in illegal economic activitiym, is a rationale for humanitarian assistance, and creates instability that affects South Korea and China in particular. The bad economic conditions will also foster forces of discontent that potentially could turn against the Kim regime The dismal economic conditions also foster forces of discontent that potentially could turn against the Kim regime—especially if knowledge of the luxurious lifestyle of communist party leaders becomes better known or as poor economic performance hurts even the elite. China and Russia has large amount of trades with North Korea. Recently, even South Korea does so. But the trade of North Korea with the United States and Japan since 2006 almost did not happen with only exception of the aid from the United States. North Korea had an estimated 1 billion dollars deficit every year in their international trade reports and it funds primarily through receipts of foreign assistance and foreign investment as well as through various questionable activities (Nanto & Chanlett-Avery, 2009). North Korea has most trade with China. In 2008, bilateral trade between China and North Korea reached $2.79 billion which is 41.3 percent higher that 2007 (Soo-Ho).
Recent days, an important change of China’s policy toward North Korea is obviously happening. China began on reassessing its North Korea policy under President Hu Jintao’s instructions after North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009. The policy of China on North Korea has two clear purposes that are: stabilization and denuclearization. But after Norths’ two nuclear tests, it has become hard for China to achieve their two main goals because North Korea is approaching fastly to the status of a nuclear state. The North Korean regime may be collapsed soon if China cooperate with other countries on imposing strict international sanctions on North Korea to persuade them for denuclearization. However, on the other hand, it will be going against its diplomatic goal of becoming “a responsible power.” If China is halfhearted with the sanctions or attempts to serve as a buffer zone and cushion the shock of the sanctions (Soo-Ho, 2010).
Political Overview
For Kim Jung-Il’s administration, North is heavily depending on China and China is the main source of their power and foods. We can even say that China is the only country that supports North constantly for a several decades. Also, China tries hard to prevent North Korea’s regime from collapse because North Korea has high chance for failure. However, China may be rethinking about their support to North because Kim tries many tests of nuclear weapons and missiles to develop their nuclear. Another factor, China has supported North Korea since the time that Chinese soldiers got into Korean War (1950-1953) to help North Korea against South (Pan, 2006). After the Korean War, Korea was divided into two parts: North and South. Because of that, China has given Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-Il the power to control North Korea politically and economically. The North Korea’s politic was basically controlled by a single leader after the war between two Koreas, which made unusual situation today.
The ties between China and North Korea were generally good because they are both communist countries. However, unlike North Korea just works mostly with China, China cooperate with the West in solving the problems related to nuclear program of North. It has encouraged North Korea to participate in multilateral talks on the matter. So in 2005, the Chinese government made sure that the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that it would push multi-party talks with North Korea. The talk aimed to end the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula. After a year, there was no progress on this. North Korea said it had no interest in re-entering such talks, which has been stopped in recent years. Nonetheless, multilateral talks resumed again in December 2006 and January 2007 (Naver News).
The last time North Korea did an underground nuclear test was in 2006. The power of their nuclear was as powerful as the atomic bomb in Hiroshima during World War. (Justin & Tania). The world knew that Norths’ nuclear weapons were very dangerous. Thus, there was negotiations in 2007, and there was a deal that North Korea agreed to close its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in exchange for fuel. So the North decided to close that nuclear in mid of 2007. North Korea declared its nuclear assets after a year. In 2008, the United States removed North Korea from its list of terrorism sponsors as part of the denuclearization agreement. At the end of that year, it was clear that North Koreas disarmament progress had stalled. Then at the start of 2009, the United States reacted by suspending energy aid to North Korea. Soon thereafter, relations devolved between the two Koreas when the South Korean leader said that aid to the North would be dependent on that countrys willingness to completely end its nuclear weapons program. North Korea accused South Korea of hostile intent and announced it was ending all political and military agreements with its neighbor to the south. April 2009 saw North Korea take provocative action by launching a communications satellite into space via rocket. That claim was widely viewed as obfuscation of a missile test. On May 25, 2009, less than three years after the earlier underground nuclear test, North Korea conducted further tests, arguing the merits of its right to a military deterrent. Days later, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the armistice that ended the Korean War. Meanwhile, multilateral negotiations including North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States remained stalled. In response to North Koreas decision to return to nuclear activities, new United Nations Security Council sanctions were put forth, and the United States said that it does not rule out returning North Korea to its list of terrorism sponsors. But by the autumn of 2009, tensions had cooled and North Korea was indicating interest in returning to the negotiating table while the United States was saying that it welcomed dialogue to resolve differences on the nuclear issue. North Korea said in early 2010 that peace deal must be forged at the foundation for denuclearization talks (Coleman, 2010).
The interest and Policy
According to Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University, there are several strong reasons why China supports North Korea. To begin with, China never likes Kim Jong-Il’s regime even though they have been keeping good relationships. It is often annoyed by the North Koreans.
Nuclear proliferation of North Korea threatens not only China but also many countries like U.S., South Korea, Japan, etc. China is the closest country with North Korea and China does not want to be threatened by North’s nuclear so they do not want North to have nuclear technology. Another concern that China have is that North Korea’s nuclear will make other neighbor countries to be equipped with nuclear as well to prevent the attack from North (Lankov). China keeps good relationship with North Korea but they may think North Korean politics and economic system is not that good. But why does China keep trying to help North Korea in many ways even though China does not want any other neighbor nations to be equipped with nuclear weapons? It is because both countries can get the advantage from using each other.
China’s another goal on North Korea is to keep Korean Peninsula divided. We can even say that China pretends that they are good friend of North Korea so that they can disturb the Korean Peninsula to be united. If the South and North Korea become united, China knows that North Korea will be richer. China needs to do something very influential because Kim always does not care about the good living of people and their economy. Therefore, subtle measures may not work (Lancov). China may have to stop all trades with North and close the relationship with them to let North Korea know that China will not help them anymore if they do not listen to them. The reason why China supports North Korea economically is that the collapse of North Korea will give better chance for Korean Peninsula to be united and that is not what China wants.
Friendly relations with North Korea ensure that the Chinese border on the Northeast is safe. Given the heavy deployment of US troops in South Korea and the East Asian region in general, having good relations with North Korea means that China does not need to a heavy military presence in the region. It is almost like a Luxembourg between France and Germany. Next, the issue of support to North Korea is also heavily linked to China’s aim of including Taiwan. As North Korea now is a nuclear power, this serves as a deterrent for more involvement of the US in the Taiwan issue given the previous history of US arms sales to Taiwan.
Other reasons why China wants good relations with North Korea are that of refugees and access to natural resources. China may also face a huge influx of refugees from North Korea if the state were to fail or crumble completely. Current estimates suggest that there are about 300,000 North Korean refugees living in China (Margesson, Chanlett-Avery, and Bruno 2007). Given that the population of North Korea as of 2010 was, a large % of this population would be expected to move to China if the North Korean state were to fail. Access to natural resources in North Korea is another important factor for China. Given that China has a huge and growing demand for resources, gaining access to these in North Korea makes China motivated to preserve its good relations with them. Estimates suggest that North Korea has $2 trillion worth of natural resources – mainly ores, coal, iron, and steel (Gearin).
Current Policy of China on North Korea
According to Canrong (2011), the Korean peninsula’s situation has been changing. The act of North Korea is very unpredictable. For other countries’ perspective, North Korea is like unusual country. This is why it is still too early to guess the future. Some experts thinks North Korea will be focusing on strengthening their capacity and improving its competitiveness during the leadership transition period in the next few years. However, they need to recover their economy first rather than political reform. Also, North Korea should start more care on the relationships with foreign countries not only China.
China and North Korea – have had kept a good relationship for a long time. Even though the nuclear tests of North Korea caused bad tensions, it is predicted that the relationship of North Korea and China will be still close (Pan, 2006). It is kind of too late to change the situation because both sides invest each other already too much. But China will act on something if North Korea keeps trying their missile tests for China’s own stability. China is the only country that North Korea can rely on. For North Korea, China can be a good provider for their aids. On the other hand, for China, they need North Korea to have more power in East Asia and have more effect on Korean Peninsula. So both countries need to try hard to get the benefit which they need.
Canrong, J. (2011). SQ Interview. China’s North Korea Policy
Coleman, D.Y (2010). Political Conditions. Korea, North Review
Epstein, G. (2010). China Won’t Help U.S. On North Korea, And Here’s Why. Retrieved from
Gearin, Daniel. Chinese Infrastructure and Natural Resources Investments in North Korea. U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission Staff Backgrounder. October 20, 2010. Web. 10 June 2011.
Lankov, A. (2009). Why does China continue to support North Korea? Retrieved from
Margesson, Chanlett-Avery, and Bruno 2007. North Korean Refugees in China and Human Rights Issues: International Response and U.S. Policy Options. September 26, 2007. P4. Web. 10 June 2011.
Nanto, D.K. and Chanlett-Avery, E. (2009). North Korea: Economic Leverage and Policy Analysis
Pan,E. (2006). Q&A: China-North Korea Relationship. Retrieved from
Soo-Ho, L (2010) China-North Korea Relations and Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone. SERI Quarterly
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