NK move shows China’s lack of leverage

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-13 0:15:06

After announcing that it was postponing the original date for its satellite launch, North Korea carried out a sudden launch of the second version of its satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 by carrier rocket Unha-3 yesterday, which "entered the orbit as planned." The launch has already been deemed "perfect" by Western analysts. The impact of the launch on Northeast Asia is almost the same as that of North Korea's nuclear test. It marks a breakthrough in the country's strategic missile technology, challenging the overall situation in the region and increasing the probability of Japan abandoning its Peace Constitution.

The situation shows that China's ability to influence countries in the region is limited. All the parties are playing their roles, seeking a secure status that is favorable to themselves while squeezing the room for others, which results in strong reactions. Such a vicious circle poses a threat to the entire security situation in Northeast Asia.

China would like to be a go-between but no one acknowledges its words. Now China faces the difficult choice of whether to fall in line with the US, Japan and South Korea in further condemning North Korea and imposing sanctions on it. No matter what China does, it can't satisfy everyone. The real problem is China's strength is not sufficient to influence its neighbor's situation. 

Strategists in China remain divided as to whether China should adopt a new policy for the Korean Peninsula.

China has various interests in the Peninsula. It needs to retain its relationship with North Korea while preventing its relationship with Japan and South Korea from deteriorating. It also wants to prevent the situation on the Peninsula from intensifying, lest it may affect China's economic development. If all of these interests cannot be secured, at least China should not be the target of escalating tensions on the Peninsula.

China's strength is the decisive factor in its national security. If it makes a revolutionary adjustment of its policy toward the region, it may send signals of inconsistency and blow the whole situation. Under such circumstances, China would be the one that benefits least. That is why China should not take a cooperative stance with the US, Japan and South Korea in imposing sanctions on North Korea. China will veto radical resolutions made by the three countries. At the same time, North Korea should pay for its actions.

North Korea's moves undoubtedly add to China's strategic insecurity, but it would be naive to attribute these to China's "failed" diplomacy. China should make an effort in helping the country's current regime have a sense of security. For example, Beijing can hold discussions with Pyongyang and other parties on providing North Korea with facilities that could protect it from military attacks and have the same effect as nuclear arms.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula has discomforted China. The regional danger is bound to make China suffer. China needs a calm approach.

Posted in: Editorial

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