With North Korea’s testing of a much more powerful nuclear weapon, eyes are turning to China, North Korea’s principle patron. Reuters reports that China may not have much influence over the Hermit Kingdom:
“It’s a question of to what extent China will clamp down on trade,” said Li, who frequently travels to North Korea, studying its economic ties with China.
“North Korea is completely dependent on China – if China goes too far in closing off trade, if we shut down our ports to them, they will see it as tantamount to an attack.”
Financial sanctions were mostly meaningless, Li said, adding that no major Chinese bank still dealt with the North and that authorities had cracked down on small financial institutions in the border town of Dandong, a gateway to the North.
The United States overestimates China’s economic influence on the North, said a second academic at Yanbian University, who looks at relations between China and North Korea.
“They didn’t even notify us before carrying out a nuclear test,” said the professor, who asked not to be identified because he is not allowed to speak with foreign media.
“They just do whatever they want. The relationship is not what it was during the Cold War.”
I think that U. S. diplomats err in being too discreet with China. As I’ve put it in comments at OTB, we should be telling China that their dog is barking and it’s disturbing the neighborhood. If they won’t do something about it we will but something will be done.
Meanwhile, I’ll open the question to the floor. How great a concern is nuclear-armed North Korea? What should we be doing?