China fears Kim is moving out of its orbit as South Korea, US talks loom

China fears Kim is moving out of its orbit as South Korea, US talks loom

How close are China and North Korea? 02:02
Beijing (CNN)China and North Korea boast an alliance forged in blood — more than 130,000 Chinese troops, including the son of Mao Zedong, died defending the North during the Korean War — but the relationship has always been an uneasy one.
While Pyongyang is dependent on Beijing for trade and diplomatic support, experts say the North Korean regime has always resented playing the little brother role to the much bigger China.
Now, as North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un establishes himself on the world stage and prepares for summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump, Beijing fears Pyongyang is moving out of its orbit and striking out on its own.
While China’s economic pressure has been pivotal in bringing Kim to the negotiating table, Beijing worries Kim might now agree to a deal that brings his country closer to its old enemies and further from its traditional ally, which has seen it through famine and global isolation.

“There is even an extreme concern within the strategic Chinese community that maybe the US will accept a nuclear capable North Korea as its ally, or at least a friendly country,” said Tong Zhao, a nuclear policy expert at Tsinghua Carnegie Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

What North Korea wants from the US 01:41
Those concerns have been exacerbated by strained ties between the China and the US as the Trump administration clashes with an emboldened Chinese President, Xi Jinping, over trade.
“Some of the concern is so extreme that it almost sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it reflects this deep, embedded Chinese suspicion about both the US and North Korea,” he said.
Left out?
For more than half a century the status quo worked just fine for China — North Korea, a fraternal communist country, acted as a buffer separating it from the US forces in the South.

Timeline
January 1, 2018

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un offers talks over sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in New Year address
January 3, 2018

North Korea calls South Korea via a hotline on the DMZ for the first time in almost two years
January 9, 2018

North Korea agrees to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in first bilateral talks since December 2015
February 11, 2018

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, meets South Korea’s Moon Jae-in during the Olympics and issues a formal invitation to Moon from her brother to travel to North Korea
February 23, 2018

President Trump announces new sanctions against North Korea that target the country’s shipping, trading companies and vessels
March 6, 2018

South Korean officials visit Pyongyang, where leader Kim says the regime is willing to talk to the US about giving up nuclear weapons.
March 8, 2018

US President Donald Trump agrees to meet with Kim after South Korean officials deliver invitation in wake of their visit to Pyongyang
March 27, 2018

Kim makes first foreign visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping, Chinese and North Korean state media report
April 17, 2018

CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea and met with Kim over Easter, sources tell CNN

Source: CNN reporting

But Pyongyang’s pursuit of its own nuclear weapons, which intensified under Kim Jong Un, changed that balance — raising the specter of a regional arms race on China’s doorstep, the risk of preemptive military action by the US and its allies, or an unintended outbreak of conflict.
This was something Beijing could not tolerate.
“China has always wanted to maintain a normal and stable relationship with North Korea. China has no disagreements with North Korea in any issue area except nuclear,” said Zhao.
“China had to respond strongly to North Korea’s acceleration of nuclear development — China had to join the rest of the international community to impose sanctions that really impacted North Korea.”
Kim also purged several key officials with close ties to Beijing, including his uncle Jang Song Thaek, angering its chief patron.
Relations suffered and the two traditional allies ended up barely on talking terms.
The rapid overtures by Kim earlier this year proposing talks with South Korea and with the US, while not unwelcome, caught Beijing off guard.
China acted quickly to reassert itself. In late March, Kim turned up in Beijing, his first foreign trip since taking power seven years ago.
The optics were unmistakable. Kim showed deference to China by traveling to the capital to brief his huge neighbor and ally and to seek its advice and blessing. President Xi made a show of grandly feting Kim, in the process reminding the world that China is on North Korea’s side and remains a key diplomatic player on the Korean Peninsula.
“China doesn’t like the current picture of the two Koreas and the US center stage without China. Beijing’s main concern is any chance that it can’t exercise its influence and serve its interests in the region,” said Duyeon Kim, senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul.
Will maximum pressure continue?
Last year, China signed onto the toughest ever UN sanctions because it wanted to bring Pyongyang to talks but it has no interest in regime change in North Korea.
Beijing fears both an economic and political collapse that would send refugees fleeing across the border and could lead to the potential reunification of the North with the US-allied South.
As such, when North Korea proclaimed last week it would no longer be testing nuclear weapons or missiles, some in China saw this as a chance to relax the sanctions that some analysts believe have forced the rapprochement.
Shortly after that announcement, an op-ed in the strident, state-owned Global Times stated this point of view explicitly: “If Washington still wants to coerce Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons with maximum pressure, it will be dangerous, and neither China nor South Korea will agree to such an approach. It will probably herald a return to even more intense turmoil.”

How close are China and North Korea? 02:02
Beijing (CNN)China and North Korea boast an alliance forged in blood — more than 130,000 Chinese troops, including the son of Mao Zedong, died defending the North during the Korean War — but the relationship has always been an uneasy one.
While Pyongyang is dependent on Beijing for trade and diplomatic support, experts say the North Korean regime has always resented playing the little brother role to the much bigger China.
Now, as North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un establishes himself on the world stage and prepares for summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump, Beijing fears Pyongyang is moving out of its orbit and striking out on its own.
While China’s economic pressure has been pivotal in bringing Kim to the negotiating table, Beijing worries Kim might now agree to a deal that brings his country closer to its old enemies and further from its traditional ally, which has seen it through famine and global isolation.

“There is even an extreme concern within the strategic Chinese community that maybe the US will accept a nuclear capable North Korea as its ally, or at least a friendly country,” said Tong Zhao, a nuclear policy expert at Tsinghua Carnegie Center for Global Policy in Beijing.

Those concerns have been exacerbated by strained ties between the China and the US as the Trump administration clashes with an emboldened Chinese President, Xi Jinping, over trade.
“Some of the concern is so extreme that it almost sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it reflects this deep, embedded Chinese suspicion about both the US and North Korea,” he said.
Left out?
For more than half a century the status quo worked just fine for China — North Korea, a fraternal communist country, acted as a buffer separating it from the US forces in the South

January 1, 2018 North Korea’s Kim Jong Un offers talks over sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in New Year address

January 3, 2018 North Korea calls South Korea via a hotline on the DMZ for the first time in almost two years

January 9, 2018 North Korea agrees to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in first bilateral talks since December 2015

February 11, 2018 Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, meets South Korea’s Moon Jae-in during the Olympics and issues a formal invitation to Moon from her brother to travel to North Korea

February 23, 2018 President Trump announces new sanctions against North Korea that target the country’s shipping, trading companies and vessels

March 6, 2018 South Korean officials visit Pyongyang, where leader Kim says the regime is willing to talk to the US about giving up nuclear weapons.

March 8, 2018 US President Donald Trump agrees to meet with Kim after South Korean officials deliver invitation in wake of their visit to Pyongyang

March 27, 2018 Kim makes first foreign visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping, Chinese and North Korean state media report

April 17, 2018 CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea and met with Kim over Easter, sources tell CNN

Source: CNN reporting

But Pyongyang’s pursuit of its own nuclear weapons, which intensified under Kim Jong Un, changed that balance — raising the specter of a regional arms race on China’s doorstep, the risk of preemptive military action by the US and its allies, or an unintended outbreak of conflict.
This was something Beijing could not tolerate.

“China has always wanted to maintain a normal and stable relationship with North Korea. China has no disagreements with North Korea in any issue area except nuclear,” said Zhao.
“China had to respond strongly to North Korea’s acceleration of nuclear development — China had to join the rest of the international community to impose sanctions that really impacted North Korea.”

Kim also purged several key officials with close ties to Beijing, including his uncle Jang Song Thaek, angering its chief patron.
Relations suffered and the two traditional allies ended up barely on talking terms.

The rapid overtures by Kim earlier this year proposing talks with South Korea and with the US, while not unwelcome, caught Beijing off guard.
China acted quickly to reassert itself. In late March, Kim turned up in Beijing, his first foreign trip since taking power seven years ago.

The optics were unmistakable. Kim showed deference to China by traveling to the capital to brief his huge neighbor and ally and to seek its advice and blessing. President Xi made a show of grandly feting Kim, in the process reminding the world that China is on North Korea’s side and remains a key diplomatic player on the Korean Peninsula.

“China doesn’t like the current picture of the two Koreas and the US center stage without China. Beijing’s main concern is any chance that it can’t exercise its influence and serve its interests in the region,” said Duyeon Kim, senior fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul.

Will maximum pressure continue?

Last year, China signed onto the toughest ever UN sanctions because it wanted to bring Pyongyang to talks but it has no interest in regime change in North Korea.
Beijing fears both an economic and political collapse that would send refugees fleeing across the border and could lead to the potential reunification of the North with the US-allied South.
As such, when North Korea proclaimed last week it would no longer be testing nuclear weapons or missiles, some in China saw this as a chance to relax the sanctions that some analysts believe have forced the rapprochement.
Shortly after that announcement, an op-ed in the strident, state-owned Global Times stated this point of view explicitly: “If Washington still wants to coerce Pyongyang to abandon nuclear weapons with maximum pressure, it will be dangerous, and neither China nor South Korea will agree to such an approach. It will probably herald a return to even more intense turmoil.”

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