Tuesday, June 1, 2010

China continues to defend North Korea

China, South Korea and Japan just wrapped up a two-day summit to which they discussed North Korea and the sinking of South Korean ship called Cheonan. The hope of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao would approve more sanctions on North Korea but that did not happen. Prime Minister Jiabao did say, "Most urgent is to dispel the impact of the Cheonan incident, gradually ease tension and especially avoid a clash." North Korean leader Kim Jong Il strongly believes that the sinking of the Cheonan was the collaboration of South Korea and United State governments to pressure China into imposing further sanctions on North Korea. Why does China continue to safeguard Kim Jong Il?

In 2008 trade between China and North Korea totaled $2.79 billion which was up 41.3 percent from 2007. CFR Senior Fellow Adam Segal stated, "The idea that the Chinese would turn their backs on the North Koreans is clearly wrong" (http://www.cfr.org/publication/11097/chinanorth_korea_relationship.html). To which Selig S. Harrison, Asia program director at the Center for International Policy, stated, the Chinese are "doing just what they have to do and no more" in terms of punishing North Korea (http://www.cfr.org/publication/11097/chinanorth_korea_relationship.html). Even though Pyongyang is heavily dependent on exports of food and energy from China many feel that North Korea understands that serves a greater good for China because they provide a buffer zone. The buffer zone North Korea provides is between China's northeastern border and the democratically led South Korea. By not having to deploy troops to their northeastern boarder, China can focus their military might to dealing with Taiwan's quest for independence.

Combining the economic and buffer zone one can understand why China allows North Korea's antics of nuclear missile testing and defiance of responsibility of the sinking of Cheonan. Kim Jong Il understands that North Korea does aide China thus does not fear sanctions. As Harrison pointed out, see above, China will only do so much as they are heavily invested in the relationship with North Korea. For countries, like the United States, to attempt to impose sanctions or influence onto China to reign in North Korea is no more right than China demanding that the United States allow amnesty for all Mexican illegal immigrants that live within the United States. Do we need to be aware of what is taking place in North Korea? Yes. An unstable Korean peninsula does nothing but create trouble for the Western world. That being said, the Western World has little ground to stand on by demanding that China impose further sanctions on North Korea that puts their $2.79 billion trade in jeopardy.