North Korea has proclaimed itself as a nuclear state in its amended constitution. Washington and Seoul have dismissed the claim, saying that they would not recognize North Korea as a nuclear power.
China should not join the two and help them exert pressure on North Korea. However, it is also necessary for China to criticize North Korea's latest move and oppose its intention to legalize its nuclear status.
China needs to make efforts to deter North Korea from possessing nuclear capabilities, or at least openly oppose North Korea's move to attain them. The historical friendship between the two should facilitate their frank communication, rather than be a historical or ideological burden restraining China's expression of its stance.
If North Korea's possession of nuclear capabilities becomes "legalized," Japan and South Korea will inevitably want to have nuclear capabilities too. A chain reaction may then take place - Taiwan may also demand the right to nuclear arms. This will lead to the most serious crisis in China's neighboring regions.
It is not in China's interests to be held hostage by North Korea's radical moves. Beijing should retain the freedom to clearly express its stance on issues of principle. Both countries should respect each other's strategic interests and security concerns. North Korea, which frequently deviates from this track, should return to the basic consensus to maintain good ties.
More open discussions about China's relationship with North Korea are needed, otherwise, in the long run, the two may have strategic misjudgments about each other. We believe their relationship can be sustained with an honest approach.
At the moment, the most urgent thing is to prevent North Korea from conducting a third nuclear test, the consequences of which will be unimaginable for Northeast Asia. Besides trying to persuade North Korea, China should publicly voice its opposition at once.
Over the past years, China has generally pursued a proper policy on the Korean Peninsula. During a complex competition with the US, it is very important for China to remain in a generally stable relationship with its neighbor. Due to the changing regional dynamics, China inevitably needs to make some adjustments in maintaining its relationship with North Korea.
China needs to be determined in making such adjustments. It has many more strategic concerns compared with North Korea. Adopting a sterner attitude on North Korea's possession of nuclear arms not only protects China's own interests, it is also a responsible attitude for North Korea and the region. We should have confidence that North Korea will accept and adapt to China's attitude.