China is a country that enjoys a special relationship with North Korea, as the two countries have long been allies and historically have shared a common interest in protecting their respective borders and interests. As a consequence, though China has had to adapt in recent years, it still continues to maintain strong ties with its northern neighbour, while also taking a relatively supportive view of the Kim Jong Un leadership.
China’s interests in North Korea are multifaceted and complex. While it is true that China values stability above all else and is opposed to any suggestion of military intervention, it also has security interests, for instance when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, counter-terrorism and nuclear disarmament. China also has substantial economic interests with North Korea that include trade, investment, and energy supplies.
China’s Response to North Korea
Despite having positive relations with North Korea, China has strongly condemned North Korea’s recent nuclear missile tests, which were seen as a breach of international law. China has repeatedly called for a peaceful resolution and diplomatic dialogue in order to prevent an escalation of the situation on the Korean peninsula. This message was delivered both in public statements and in private conversations with North Korean officials.
In addition to this diplomatic approach, China has also taken multiple economic steps to ensure that it maintains its interests in North Korea. In response to the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, China has worked hard to ensure that North Korea still has access to resources and materials in order to prevent it from completely collapsing. This has been achieved through increased bilateral trade and investments as well as a series of special economic zones.
The Potential Risks for China
Even though China is taking steps to maintain stability in the region and has declared its commitment to the denuclearization of North Korea, it is still aware that North Korea’s actions could bring serious risks to China itself. North Korea’s nuclear proliferation and its unpredictable behavior could result in a regional arms race, an accidental war or a catastrophic global incident.
China is further concerned with the potential human suffering and political instability as a result of a potential North Korean conflict. Moreover, if the North Korean regime were to collapse, China would be faced with a significant influx of refugees in its border areas, as well as a loss of its economic and geo-strategic investments in the country.