Washington should develop a comprehensive diplomatic strategy to
persuade the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to cooperate with the
United States, South Korea, and Japan in pressing the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to abandon its nuclear program.
The North Korea problem continues to worsen, as the Kim regime
tests more nuclear weapons and develops longer-range missiles.
Tighter sanctions have proved little more effective than diplomatic
entreaties. Many officials and analysts alike see action by the PRC
as the best and perhaps only solution. On one of his many trips to
Beijing, Secretary of State John Kerry pressed the PRC on the
issue, declaring that “China has a unique role it can
However, the Chinese authorities remain unconvinced. They have
taken slightly tougher positions toward North Korea over time, but
so far have done little to compel Pyongyang to halt its forbidden
weapons programs. Simply demanding that China intervene won’t work.
Washington must persuade Beijing to do more. The objective should
be to convince Beijing to back an allied denuclearization deal and
cut all assistance for the North if the DPRK says no.
The PRC fears the consequences of a North Korean collapse but
appears to be tiring of Pyongyang’s provocative conduct. The United
States should acknowledge the PRC’s geopolitical interests and
encourage Beijing to both reevaluate its policy toward the North
and press for either fundamental policy reform or a leadership
change in Pyongyang. Denuclearization, as well as a reduction in
the North’s other confrontational policies, could be achieved
either way. Although the United States likely would prefer new
leadership, a push for regime change likely would spark the
The North Korean Problem
The most important security issue in Northeast Asia is North
Korea. The DPRK has unsettled the entire region with its nuclear
weapons program, missile development, forward-based conventional
forces, brutal domestic repression, and routine international
brinkmanship. The North lacks allies, possesses a wretched economic
base, and has only limited conventional military capabilities.
Nevertheless, North Korea could trigger a catastrophic
Pyongyang’s leadership offers particular cause for concern. Kim
Il-sung and Kim Jong-il offered ugly stability, displaying a
wickedly sure hand in provoking the Republic of Korea (ROK) and
America short of war. Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s son and successor,
remains untested, and intelligence reports describe him as
“exceptionally stubborn and not a very good listener.”2 He has executed some 130 senior officials
since taking power, starting with his uncle, Jang Song-taek,
suggesting a mix of cruelty and paranoia.3 No one knows what to do about the unstable,
opaque, and brutal dictatorship with nuclear weapons.
The elder two Kims refused to risk their power by adopting
political or economic reforms. Kim Jong-un’s “byungjin” policy sets
economic growth with nuclear development as apparently equal
priorities, despite obvious tensions between the two.4 Fear for regime survival discourages any kind
of genuine North Korean “sunshine” policy, or rapprochement with
the South.5 Some observers hope
for a North Korean Mikhail Gorbachev or Deng Xiaoping, but so far
Kim has not filled that role.6
Kim’s brief sojourn in a Swiss boarding school apparently did not
turn him into a liberal. Jang’s fate offers a dramatic warning to
anyone who challenges Kim.
Moreover, with South Korea poised to “swallow” the North —
a fear expressed by North Korean officials when I visited many
years ago — reformist DPRK officials could not count on
taking over the commanding heights of a reformed system like their
counterparts did in Russia. Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University
believes that discourages anyone voluntarily yielding power and
thereby impedes transformative reform from within.7
A North Korean Spring is even less likely. No matter how
dissatisfied the apparatchiks in Pyongyang may be, they have much
to lose from radical change. Only if the regime no longer possesses
the minimum resources necessary to support the nomenklatura and
military is the elite likely to revolt. The rural majority suffers
far more, but has little opportunity to organize.
There’s also the possibility of collapse, widely hoped for and
oft-predicted. The presumption of the Kim dynasty’s imminent demise
may explain years of South Korean subsidies to a regime that
routinely threatened to turn Seoul into a lake of fire. However,
the North Korean system continues to exude stability, despite
occasional highly publicized executions and
defections.8 That could change, of
course, but years of poverty and famine have demonstrated the
regime’s bloody resilience.
Forced Transformation from Beyond
History and current reality suggest that transformation will
only come from outside. Diplomacy is not entirely moribund, but the
belief that talks alone can transform the North Korean regime into
something fundamentally different reflects the triumph of hope over
experience. Pyongyang has invested heavily in its nuclear program
despite years of sanctions. The DPRK has obvious reasons to
maintain at least a small nuclear arsenal: nuclear weapons offer
defense against an alliance possessing overwhelming military
advantages, a source of international prestige, and a means to
extort money and other benefits from neighbors. Moreover, the
nuclear program helps maintain domestic political support,
especially among the armed forces.
The regime still might be willing to make subsidiary deals
— regarding limits on future nuclear production, reduction in
conventional arms, and economic cooperation.9 But even more modest agreements would not
likely come easy or quick. And they would leave the North as both a
dictatorship and nuclear power.
If not negotiations, then perhaps sanctions? There is widespread
political support in Washington to penalize North Korea
economically, despite the evident lack of success so
far.10 As a poor nation with
outsized ambitions, the DPRK should be vulnerable. However, to
achieve Washington’s objectives, sanctions must be, like the
porridge for Goldilocks, just right, neither too cold (ineffective)
nor too hot (precipitating bloody collapse): an imploding,
unstable, opaque, and brutal dictatorship with nuclear weapons
might end up being the worst of all possible worlds. Moreover,
starving the population with sanctions would be a morally dubious
and likely ineffective means to transform regime personnel or
Economic restrictions are unlikely to work without the PRC’s
support. China is North Korea’s most important trading partner.
China provides the North with up to (estimates vary) 90 percent of
its energy, 80 percent of its consumer goods, and 45 percent of its
food supplies.11 Imported
luxuries are used by the Kim family to reward the ruling elite.
Beijing’s sanctions compliance has been inconsistent. As the
Congressional Research Service reported six years ago:
China’s enforcement of United
Nations [UN] sanctions against North Korea is unclear. China has
implemented some aspects of the sanctions that relate directly to
North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, but Beijing
has been less strict on controlling exports of dual use products.
Chinese shipments of banned luxury goods to the DPRK continue to
The PRC tightened cross-border trade earlier this year after the
UN, with China’s support, applied new limits in response to the
DPRK’s missile and nuclear tests. Enforcement also appears to be
more serious than before.13
Nevertheless, commerce continues. Pyongyang does not appear to be
suffering unduly from the new measures and there is evidence of a
rebound in trade.14 Indeed,
Beijing apparently demonstrated its displeasure over Seoul’s
decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)
missile defense system by relaxing economic controls with the
The Chinese government also has restricted online access to
North Korean trade figures, sparking speculation that it wants to
impede outside scrutiny of its efforts.16 Moreover, as attention fades, the PRC might
relax enforcement, especially if it believes the sanctions are
threatening Pyongyang’s stability.17
Anyway, imposing more hardship on the North Korean people
typically has had little impact on the policy of the North Korean
government. In the late 1990s a half million or more people died
from starvation, yet Pyongyang refused to change its agricultural
or economic policies. In the short term, at least, tougher
sanctions likely would strengthen state control and weaken private
Finally, a number of figures, from military leaders to policy
analysts to journalists have advocated military action to solve the
North Korea problem.18 Most
famously, the Clinton administration prepared a strike on the
North’s nuclear facilities, which was planned in part by William J.
Perry, then secretary of defense, and Ashton Carter, then assistant
secretary and current secretary of defense.19 The two later advocated attacking the
North’s missile facilities.20
However, the costly and unpopular war in Iraq is but a faint
echo of what war with the North would entail. The DPRK could use
artillery and missiles to wreak havoc in Seoul, the South’s
population, economic, and political heart.21 Although there is little doubt that U.S.
and South Korean forces would defeat any North Korean conventional
attack, sheer volume would ensure substantial devastation of the
South.22 U.S. war-gaming
consistently predicts at least one million casualties on both
sides.23 The North’s possession
of deliverable nuclear weapons obviously could multiply those
Might the DPRK be deterred from responding to a targeted strike
on nuclear and missile facilities? Having watched the United States
dismantle Serbia and pursue regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, and
Libya, North Korean officials likely would view any attack as a
prelude to regime change, in which case they would have nothing to
lose from striking with everything they have in response to any
American action.24 For Pyongyang
it would be better to seize the initiative and preempt the attack
that it expects to come.
Other solutions are in short supply. Despite Washington’s long
involvement on the Korean peninsula, the North should not be a U.S.
responsibility. Washington should step back militarily and transfer
the North Korea problem to other states.25 The ROK long ago passed the DPRK in most
measures of national power and is well able to defend
itself.26 Japan, too, could do
far more militarily but continues to suffer from the overhang of
history. Neither, however, has the means to coerce or persuade
Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.
Russia’s influence in the North has waxed and waned over the
years. A quarter century ago, Moscow angered North Korea by opening
relations with South Korea, which became an important economic
partner of Russia. Moscow participated in the Six-Party Talks and
recently revived ties with the DPRK, including providing small
amounts of food aid.27
Nevertheless, Russia remains only a modest actor in Korean affairs,
with little desire to promote substantive change or take over the
North as a dependent.
The China Solution
As a result, most everyone’s attention turns to China. The PRC
is the North’s most important friend and only ally. Chen Ping,
deputy managing editor of China’s Global Times, observed:
“There are many ways in which North Korea is not an ordinary
country for China.”28
U.S. officials have been particularly insistent that China act
to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions, and perhaps much more. In
April 2013 Secretary of State John Kerry declared: “There is no
group of leaders on the face of the planet who have more capacity
to make a difference in this than the Chinese, and everybody knows
it, including, I believe, them.”29 After the North’s nuclear test earlier this
year, Kerry proclaimed: “China had a particular approach that it
wanted to make, that we agreed and respected to give them space to
implement that. Today in my conversation with the Chinese I made it
very clear that it has not worked and we cannot continue business
as usual.”30 In June 2016 a
senior Treasury official traveling with Secretary Jack Lew argued
that “China has the ability to both create pressure and use that as
a leverage that is a very important part of global efforts to
isolate North Korea and get North Korea to change its
Other prominent officials and candidates agree. Sen. John McCain
(R-AZ) declared that “China does hold the key to this problem.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) complained: “It’s about time they
stepped up to the plate and put a little pressure on this North
Korean regime.”32 Republican
presidential nominee Donald Trump was even blunter: “China has to
get involved. And China should solve that problem. And we should
put pressure on China to solve the problem.”33 Even Libertarian Party presidential
candidate Gary Johnson agreed, though in less dramatic
So far, however, relying on the PRC has been a dead end. As
Bonnie S. Glaser and Brittany Billingsley of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies observe: “While China has
occasionally used its clout to bring North Korea to the negotiating
table and to discourage Pyongyang from engaging in provocations
that could escalate to conflict on the Korean Peninsula, Beijing
has continued to prioritize stability over denuclearization and has
thus remained unwilling to put substantial pressure on the
American officials and analysts sometimes appear befuddled at
Beijing’s reticence. However, the explanation is simple. The PRC
sees its interests differently than the United States and its
allies see theirs. China believes the status quo is better than the
likely alternatives. The Kim regime is troublesome, but too
important to be allowed to fail. Chinese enthusiasm for backing
Pyongyang appears to be weakening, but so far Beijing has tightened
sanctions enforcement no more than the DPRK can bear.
In 1950 the PRC intervened in the Korean War to save the North
from defeat, leading to a relationship widely described as close as
“lips and teeth.” However, tensions between the two began during
the conflict itself and later reflected Chinese opposition to Kim’s
plan for monarchical succession to his son.36 The PRC-U.S. and PRC-Republic of Korea
rapprochements added stress. The DPRK maintained its independent
course, moving ahead with missile and nuclear tests, as well as
regularly provoking South Korea and America.
Over the years Beijing allowed a steady tightening of UN
sanctions, but refused to impose potentially crippling economic
restrictions. The PRC sometimes temporarily halted oil shipments to
demonstrate its displeasure with North Korean policy and the
relationship has grown rather frosty, especially after Kim
Jong-un’s ascension.37 Still,
trade greatly expanded during that same period. Significant Chinese
investment is planned for special economic zones as well as
communication and transportation infrastructure, though
follow-through has been inconsistent.
In recent years, Pyongyang’s behavior has triggered debate in
China over the PRC’s relations with the North in academia, think
tanks, media, and even government.38 Younger Chinese are more willing to
disengage from the North and accept reunification dominated by the
South.39 Scholars seem politely
but increasingly skeptical of the North’s value to the PRC. Polls
find the Chinese people have grown more hostile to Pyongyang, and
especially its hereditary succession.40
Chinese language media sometimes run stories critical of the
North which do not appear in English-language
versions.41 After Kim Jong-il’s
death many Chinese people criticized Beijing’s continuing support
for the DPRK.42 Interestingly,
the Financial Times found that North Koreans appeared to
bear equally “deep animosity” toward the Chinese.43 The relationship barely qualifies as a
Given these tensions, U.S. officials have spoken hopefully about
their latest conversations with the Chinese government. Yet
Beijing’s official relations with the North remain largely
unchanged. Michael D. Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment explained:
“Indications of authoritative changes in the Chinese government
stance toward the North Korea problem have consisted almost
exclusively of sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious bilateral or
multilateral diplomatic moves as well as changes in wording (or the
omission of key words or phrases) in official
Three years ago Lee Jong-heon of the Asia Future Institute in
Seoul argued: “While a big change in policy is not yet apparent,
hints of subtle adjustments are visible.”45 A year later Kurt Campbell, former
assistant secretary of state for Asian and Pacific affairs,
contended: “There is a subtle shift in Chinese foreign policy. Over
the short to medium term, that has the potential to affect the
calculus in North East Asia.”46
Nothing much has happened since then, however, despite sporadic
enforcement actions. Fudan University’s Cai Jian observes: “A lot
of people want to change the policy, but the traditional school is
Of late China appears to have sent a decidedly mixed message. By
many accounts Beijing has grown frustrated with North Korean
military provocations and economic failures. President Xi Jinping
and his top foreign policy officials appeared more willing to take
a more aggressive approach toward the North.48 Xi has yet to meet Kim, while the former
has seen South Korean President Park Geun-hye six times, including
at last year’s World War II victory parade.
Moreover, after North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in early
2016, China backed tighter sanctions. Foreign Minister Wang Yi
supported the new UN sanctions resolution “so that North Korea will
pay the necessary price and show there are consequences for its
behavior.”49 The PRC then
strengthened sanctions enforcement, but not enough to cause
Pyongyang to change its policies. In March Foreign Minister Wang Yi
emphasized that “comprehensive action” was necessary to settle the
problem: “Blind faith in sanctions and pressure, actually, are not
a responsible approach for the future of the Korean
Beijing also criticized Washington’s unilateral financial
restrictions. “We consistently oppose imposing unilateral sanctions
on other countries based on one’s domestic laws,” asserted a
foreign ministry spokeswoman.51
China’s embassy spokesman in Washington insisted that “unilateral
sanctions must not affect and harm the legitimate rights and
interests of China.” Also, the parties should “avoid any move that
may further aggravate tensions” on the peninsula.52
As Lee Ki-Hyun of the Korean Institute for National Unification
observed: “Some analysts thought of China’s strong criticism and
statements toward North Korea as a shift in China’s policy toward
it, but it is hard to say that there was a significant shift in the
basic principle of Beijing maintaining its relationship with
Pyongyang in the long-run.”53 The
previous foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, said much the same during a
similar episode three years ago: “The support for tougher UN
sanctions against North Korea should not be interpreted as a basic
change in China’s attitude.”54
A defiant Pyongyang sent an envoy in early June to tell Chinese
officials that his government’s commitment to the nuclear program
was “permanent.”55 President Xi
unexpectedly met with him, noting that the PRC “attached great
importance to developing a friendly relationship with North
Korea.”56 While that did not
indicate that all was forgiven — no summit invitation has yet
been extended to Kim — Xi’s response seemed surprisingly
Other events also might be moving Beijing back toward the North.
China criticized America’s unilateral imposition of economic
sanctions on Kim and his aides to punish them for human rights
violations, an issue dismissed by the PRC for the obvious reason
that it is a major human rights abuser. A Chinese government
spokesman criticized unilateral penalties and the “damage to the
legitimate and lawful rights and interests of another
More serious was Beijing’s adverse reaction to South Korea’s
participation in America’s proposed Terminal High Altitude Air
Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system. Some observers argued that
“punishing” the PRC for failing to confront the North would make
the former more cooperative. However, China might have been more
receptive to recent allied entreaties in hopes of convincing Seoul
not to join. The PRC now appears to be ever so modestly reaffirming
its relationship with the DPRK. There even is talk that China,
which accounts for a quarter of South Korean exports, might
retaliate economically against the South.58
So far the PRC appears to have imposed only easily reversible
penalties that do not threaten the DPRK’s survival. They are
causing economic pain, but not enough to affect Pyongyang’s
behavior. Beijing has freely admitted its limited objectives. When
China went along with an earlier round of UN controls, Foreign
Minister Yang Jiechi observed: “We have always believed that
sanctions are not the end of the Security Council’s actions, nor
are they the way to fundamentally resolve the issues in
question.”59 Current foreign
minister Wang Yi explained that “China is serious” about allowing
neither chaos nor conflict on the Korean peninsula.60 So long as that commitment trumps
denuclearization, nothing will change.
Convincing China to Do More
Some in Washington believe the solution is to shout louder at
the Chinese. For instance, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) opined that “we
need to be clearer with China as to what our expectations are,
because this is a danger to them.”61 Yet there’s no evidence that they fail to
understand “our expectations.” The Chinese simply aren’t willing to
fulfill America’s goals; Beijing doesn’t believe doing so is in its
Others proposed to threaten Beijing. Sen. McCain once advocated
that Washington make the PRC’s stance toward the North a “defining
issue in our relations with China.”62 Donald Trump claimed that “we have total
control over China, if we had people who knew what they were doing.
… We have China because of trade,” suggesting that he would use
those ties to “put pressure on China to solve the
online columnist Anders Corr advocated that Washington sanction the
PRC for its support for the North.64
Yet China almost certainly would defy such efforts. Advocating
surrender to Washington on an issue of national importance would
win few political points in Beijing, especially during a time of
economic and political stress. Indeed, resisting foreign dictates
would likely unite the entire leadership behind Xi.
Coerced compliance from such tactics could be equally costly for
the United States. Beijing would be less likely to accept Korean
reunification, perhaps intervening more directly to sustain a
friendly DPRK. And the U.S.-China relationship would risk severe
damage. Cooperation on a range of security, economic, and political
issues would suffer. Washington would face a far more antagonistic
PRC, forever muttering “never again,” arming to reduce U.S.
leverage, and determined to win the next bilateral showdown.
Thus, Washington should negotiate, not dictate. America and its
allies must convince the PRC leadership that they are better served
by working with the United States, South Korea, and Japan against
The sale will not be easy. As noted earlier, the DPRK is not a
normal country for China. Observed Professor Wang Xinsheng of
Peking University, “There are more actors involved in the process
of policymaking on North Korea largely because of the special
relations between the two nations which stem from their deep
historic bond and ideological alliance.”65 In fact, the Communist Party and People’s
Liberation Army may play a more important role than the foreign
ministry in dealing with Pyongyang.
That complex bilateral relationship means parties on the Chinese
side are more willing to make allowances for the North, to treat it
“as China’s unruly little communist brother,” according to
Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt of the International Crisis
Group.66 Chinese officials may
trust the North to eventually do the right thing, which in turn
makes Beijing less willing to sacrifice North Korea, especially to
the PRC’s greatest rivals, America and Japan.
Nevertheless, many U.S. observers believe Beijing can dictate to
the DPRK. Sen. John McCain argues: “If the Chinese wanted them to
act in a responsible way and move forward towards a democratic,
unified Korean peninsula, they could do that. Instead, the Chinese
continue to prop them up.”67
Indeed, “They could bring the North Korean economy to their knees
if they wanted to.”68 Trump’s
views were similar: “China has control — absolute control
— of North Korea. They don’t say it, but they do, and they
should make that problem disappear.”69
Unfortunately, that is wishful thinking. The PRC-North Korean
marriage is primarily one of convenience. The North always has
fiercely protected its independence from all comers, including
— and, given their geographic closeness, especially —
China. As Mitchell Lerner has noted, materials collected by the
North Korea International Documentation Project indicated “that
throughout the past half-century, the DPRK leadership has firmly
and consistently resisted Chinese efforts to influence their
policymaking.”70 Wang Jiarui,
minister of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department,
downplayed China’s role: “The U.S. should not assume the DPRK will
listen to China on all issues. The DPRK is an independent
country.”71 North Korean
officials have sometimes indicated their desire to put distance
between Pyongyang and Beijing, even to employ the United States as
a counterweight.72 The DPRK is
anything but a puppet of China.
That should be obvious. Pyongyang has long ignored counsel from
its large neighbor regarding economic reform, nuclear weapons, and
military brinksmanship. Wu Dawei, China’s top diplomat regarding
the North Korean nuclear issue, recently complained that Beijing’s
admonitions “go through one ear and out the other ear” of the
To get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, the PRC would
have to employ coercion. Most extreme was a proposal floated in the
op ed pages of the Wall Street Journal that China
invade the North.74 However,
Beijing would never provoke the conflict and chaos that it fears.
Perhaps the PRC could covertly influence Pyongyang, forcing or at
least influencing personnel change in the North Korean capital.
That might be what Trump meant when he said “I would get China to
make that guy disappear in one form or another very
quickly.”75 But the result of
such shadow warfare is impossible to predict.
Most observers focus on Beijing’s economic leverage. For
instance, the PRC could vigorously enforce international sanctions.
Marcus Noland and Stephen Haggard of the Peterson Institute for
International Economics contended: “Beijing is the key actor with
regard to all the banking and transshipping issues… . It could
seriously disrupt, if not end, North Korea’s proliferation
China also could limit or end trade with the North, as well as
energy and food assistance. That would minimize the regime’s access
to hard currency, shrink economic activity, cut luxuries for the
elite, and potentially leave the land even more dark and hungry.
While Kim Jong-un and his closest associates might not end up
freezing and starving, many other North Koreans might suffer that
The PRC could halt indirect forms of support for Pyongyang as
well. For instance, Beijing has repatriated tens of thousands of
North Korean refugees, who suffer a brutal fate back “home.”
Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum even suggested
that “China could open its 800-mile border with North Korea. The
resulting exodus would surely do for North Korea what the collapse
of the Berlin Wall did for East Germany.”77
These steps would put the entire North Korean system at risk.
Even if the PRC did its worst, however, few Chinese policymakers
appear to believe that Pyongyang would quickly cave. As noted
earlier, North Korea’s elite has demonstrated a high tolerance for
hardship afflicting the rest of the population: a half million or
more people starved to death in the late 1990s. Moreover, Kim
Jong-un may see his survival resting on the nuclear program —
including sustaining popular prestige, reinforcing anti-American
propaganda, and preserving military support — in which case
no amount of economic pressure could convince him to give it up.
Some Chinese even fear that the North would strike out. Kim and his
colleagues might undertake a provocative course designed to
destabilize the peninsula to remind Beijing of the price it would
pay if chaos enveloped the North.
Making the Case to China
Still, pressure from the PRC appears to offer the best hope for
changing leadership, policy, or both in Pyongyang. To make the best
case, the United States first would need to smooth often difficult
relations with Beijing. As Bonnie Glaser and Brittany Billingsley
have noted: “Beijing must be confident that the United States is
not seeking to undermine China’s stability and contain its rise;
otherwise, it will not only refuse to partner with the United
States but may instead increase efforts to shield Pyongyang from
international penalties in response to provocations.”78
There are other important reasons to improve bilateral
relations, of course. But the United States is not likely to win
significant concessions regarding the DPRK if Washington and
Beijing are at loggerheads on other issues, especially security.
Bilateral confrontations elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific will make
Beijing less likely to ease tensions for America in Korea.
Moreover, even if a deal looked feasible, would China trust the
United States to implement an agreement?79 After all, China sees Washington as having
broken its promise not to expand NATO to Russia’s borders and
violated the denuclearization deal reached with Libya, promoting
regime change at the first opportunity.
Equally important, Washington must speak to China’s interests.
Sen. McCain complained “It’s hard to know why China doesn’t push
harder.”80 Actually, anyone with
even a superficial knowledge of the region understands Beijing’s
position. Only by addressing the PRC’s specific concerns can
American officials hope to convince Beijing to, in effect, switch
President Xi once indicated that the PRC’s priorities were “no
war, no instability, no nukes.”81
That reflected Beijing’s long-standing approach to the Korean
peninsula.82 The order is
instructive: in China’s view, the worst contingency would be war,
next would be a DPRK collapse. A nuclear North is to be
discouraged, but is less feared than contingencies that could be
created by the policies necessary to force denuclearization.
America must seek to change that assessment.
As it stands, China supports North Korea for several very
First, the DPRK impedes U.S. policy in East Asia. North Korea
complicates American military planning, threatening Washington’s
leading military allies, South Korea and Japan, and causing them to
divert resources that otherwise might be directed at China.
Geographically the North creates a buffer, which the PRC fought
hard, losing hundreds of thousands killed, to preserve more than
six decades ago.
According to Lee Dong-jun of Korea University, “Beijing has
suspected that the U.S. is using the North Korean threat as a
pretext to bring its military power to China’s
doorstep.”83 Ground forces might
not seem important in a world of nuclear-tipped missiles and
well-armed carrier groups, but Korean unification, noted Cai Jian
of Fudan University, would “put an American military alliance on
the doorstep of China.” U.S. troops bordering the PRC would pose an
even more potent symbolic affront.
China also would see a united Korea allied with America as
strengthening Washington’s attempted encirclement. U.S. troops
could end up on the Yalu, and additional bases would be available
for use by American naval and air forces. The PRC proved its
sensitivity to intelligence gathering during the confrontation over
America’s downed EP-3, a signals reconnaissance airplane, in
April 2001. It similarly objected to the voyage of the Navy’s USNS
Impeccable within China’s Exclusive Economic Zone near Hainan
Island in March 2009.84
Washington’s post-Cold War policy of expanding NATO up to
Russia’s border likely unsettles Beijing. As Andrew Kydd at the
University of Wisconsin-Madison notes, “China reasonably expects
that the United States will do the same in any scenario involving
Korean reunification.”85 The
North might do little for China, but at least it is not working
with Washington and its Allies
Moreover, an independent North Korea creates a constant need for
Beijing’s assistance. The United States and South Korea, in
particular, regularly request the PRC to use its influence in
Pyongyang. That provides China with a bargaining chip. Indeed,
Beijing gains leverage simply by appearing to “deliver” the Kim
regime to, say, the Six-Party Talks, even if no meaningful
Competition with the
A united Korea would share regional influence with China.
Perhaps most worrisome to Beijing, the ROK might attract ethnic
Korean Chinese citizens. Andrei Lankov notes that “quasi-official
territorial claims, frequently voiced in Seoul, do not help quell
these worries, either.”86 In
fact, some South Koreans, including members of the National
Assembly, claim the territory of Kando, located in China’s Jilin
Province. They advocate voiding the 1909 treaty defining the two
Further, a united Korea that inherited the North’s nuclear
arsenal — a possibility discussed in the ROK — would
acquire outsized regional influence. A single Korea also could
allow an expanded missile defense system seen as undermining
Beijing’s security.87 Even worse
would be a unified Korea working with Japan, despite past tensions,
as well as America.
The PRC has gained significant economic advantages in the North,
with minerals making up an increasing share of DPRK
exports.88 China has pressed
forward with several investment zones, private as well as public.
These ties have made the DPRK highly dependent economically on
China.89 In fact, the South’s
closure in February 2016 of the joint ROK-North Korea Kaesong
Industrial Complex, which had employed over 50,000 North Korean
workers near the DMZ, increased Pyongyang’s reliance on the
PRC.90 Some observers argue that
the latter is essentially “taking over” the North Korean
Beijing is more interested in avoiding conflict than promoting
development on the Korean peninsula. The existing North Korean
state is troublesome enough; disintegration, chaos, and conflict
could be far worse. One can only speculate as to the likely
consequences, but they almost certainly would be
awful.92 And they probably would
not be contained within the North’s territory.
“The Chinese are most concerned about the collapse of North
Korea leading to chaos on the border,” argues Adam Segal of the
Council of Foreign Relations.93
Hundreds of thousands or millions of starving refugees could head
across the Yalu, resulting in high economic, social, and political
costs. The PRC has suffered through large-scale refugee flows in
the past. According to Scott Snyder of the Council on Foreign
Relations, such episodes “fixed the attention of Chinese
policymakers in northeastern China on the political risks
associated with a possible decline in economic and political
stability in North Korea.”94 An
influx of ethnic Koreans also might ignite Korean nationalism and
irredentism and other problems between China and a united
Korea.95 Ethnic Koreans living in
China today appear to identify more with the PRC than North
Korea.96 However, a united and
free Korea might be more attractive to them.
Moreover, collapse could be violent, with conflict spilling over
the Yalu. Gregory J. Moore of the University of Nottingham
observes: “Beijing does not fancy the notion of North Korea as a
Northeast Asian version of present-day Somalia, the pre-2001
Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, or China itself during its own Warring
States Period.”97 The PRC might
feel the need to send in its military to restore order or even
sustain a friendly regime. At the same time, the United States and
South Korea might be tempted to intervene — to secure loose
nukes, provide aid, impose order, hasten reunification, or
forestall Chinese action. That could yield a dangerous
in North Korea
Finally, a failed attempt to coerce Pyongyang likely would
permanently damage Beijing’s relationship with the North’s current
leadership. An actively hostile DPRK would be even more unruly.
Some Chinese even fear Pyongyang directing its nuclear weapons
northward.98 Zhu Feng of Peking
University warns: “If North Korea can threaten the U.S. with
nuclear weapons today, it can surely blackmail China with its
nuclear arsenal in the future.”99
Given that list of horrors, supporting the DPRK looks like the
best of a set of bad options.
U.S. Negotiating Strategy
To win China’s cooperation, the United States must convince the
Chinese leadership that, despite the preceding considerations, the
PRC is better served working with America, South Korea, and Japan
against North Korea. Beijing will have to believe that it would be
more secure and prosperous even if the attempt to change the North
failed and the result was regime collapse. The allies must do more
than tout the benefits of denuclearization. They must directly
address the PRC’s geopolitical concerns.
Lee Ki-Hyun of the Korea Institute for National Unification
argues that ever since North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009,
“China decided to differentiate the North Korean nuclear issue from
the North Korean issue as a whole and set its focus on the latter.
In other words, as the North Korean nuclear problem has
intensified, China has pushed it back and deemed it less
important.”100 The United States
must convince the PRC that the two matters cannot be separated.
Washington’s objective should be to convince Beijing to use its
clout to alter the North’s policies of nuclear expansion and
reckless confrontation. That might require a leadership (less
fearsome than regime) change, though the personalities matter less
than the policies. The overriding objective would be reducing the
security threat posed by the North, rather than promoting democracy
and reunification, which the PRC would not likely favor.
First, the United States should work with Seoul and Tokyo to
develop a comprehensive offer for the North. Many Chinese
policymakers continue to blame Washington and its allies for
threatening North Korea’s security, thereby spurring the latter to
develop nuclear weapons. Chinese officials believe allied demands
for regime change reinforce Pyongyang’s behavior.
For instance, Wang Jiarui of China’s International Department
forthrightly criticized the United States and South Korea for
contributing to increased tensions through such policies as regular
military maneuvers: if “the U.S. continues to refuse to talk [to
the North], then it cannot want China to assume more
responsibility.”101 Earlier this
year the Foreign Ministry dismissed criticism of China: “The origin
and crux of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula has never
been China. The key to solving the problem is not
China.”102 It is America and its
allies, in Beijing’s view.
Similarly, China’s semi-official Global Times pointedly
observed: “The U.S., South Korea and Japan should abandon fantasies
of coercing Pyongyang through sanctions. They should make efforts
to ease North Korea’s sense of strategic insecurity.”103 After the latest nuclear test, the
Chinese foreign ministry urged the United States and the North to
communicate and negotiate, and “explore ways to resolve each
other’s reasonable concerns.”104
Hui Zhang of Harvard University put it another way: “while China
is prepared to support larger sticks, a resolution to the crisis
must also include larger carrots to North Korea: a package deal
that includes reliable security guarantees.”105 The difference in approaches is subtle
but critical. The PRC wants Washington to offer a peace
treaty/security guarantee to create an environment conducive to
denuclearization rather than as a reward for denuclearization.
Developing an engagement deal would help bridge the gap between
Washington and Beijing and, in the words of Bonnie Glaser and
Brittany Billingsley, “demonstrate U.S. sincerity.”106
The resulting offer should be a joint allied product and include
a peace treaty, diplomatic recognition, end of sanctions,
participation in international agencies and forums, economic aid,
removal of U.S. troops from the South, increased inter-Korean
contacts, and discussion of reunification. In return, the North
would agree to supervised denuclearization and reduction in
conventional military tensions. A dialogue over human rights would
follow as part of the new relationship.
The allies then should present their proposal to the PRC,
seeking its endorsement and full support in negotiations, whether
bilateral, or through renewed Six-Party Talks or other forums.
Beijing should insist that the North agree to denuclearization, and
if it balks, sanction Pyongyang for failing to accept a proposal
that China views as fair. The PRC’s objective would be not just
getting the North to the table, but implementing a meaningful
Gideon Rachman complained that a security commitment —
“guaranteeing the regime’s survival in return for nuclear
disarmament” — would be impossible, since its survival could
not be ensured, and immoral, “given the regime’s murderous
nature.”107 However, as a
practical matter, current U.S. policy accepts the regime’s survival
without nuclear disarmament. The promise should be against outside
intervention, including by the United States, and would be
justified if negotiations resulted in the removal of the North’s
nuclear weapons. A leadership willing to make peace might be more
likely to eventually change in other ways.
Of course, Pyongyang could say no even to a generous package.
However, such a refusal would further U.S. objectives by shifting
blame onto the North. Then the United States could attempt to
convince Beijing that the status quo is more dangerous than
pressing the North to reform. The situation today is volatile, not
stable, and could lead to just the sort of chaos and violence
Beijing fears. Furthermore, Washington should detail as clearly as
possible how the status quo, already inimical to Chinese interests,
is likely to get worse. DPRK provocations are likely to continue,
creating a risk of war on the peninsula and encouraging rearmament
throughout the region. Under the current circumstances, it would be
better for Beijing to act preemptively if Pyongyang refuses to be
War could easily erupt from a simple miscalculation or mistake.
China has good reason to distrust the North’s current leadership.
If war broke out, the United States and its allies would not stop
at the DMZ. Watching the conquest of its nominal ally would be
humiliating and the fighting might overflow North Korea’s border
into the PRC.
China also has good reason to fear a U.S.-initiated war.
Washington previously considered launching a preventive war, at
least to strike the DPRK’s nuclear facilities. You Ji of the
University of New South Wales pointed out that one site is just 20
km from the Chinese border, so “a surgical strike against this
nuclear site would unleash nuclear pollutants to Chinese
territories.”108 Beijing also is
aware of America’s willingness to intervene in such nations as
Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.
North Korea’s provocations have already spurred allied military
preparations that indirectly affect the PRC. The Obama
administration has strengthened its military links with both South
Korea and Japan and warned Beijing of America’s readiness to deploy
additional forces to deter Pyongyang.109 In April 2013 Secretary Kerry pointed to
expanded missile defenses in Guam and Japan as a “direct response
to the fact that American interests and American territory” were
threatened by the North.110 The
recent decision to deploy the THAAD system to South Korea is also
clearly a response to North Korea’s behavior.
An aggressive and unpredictable DPRK has been one of the reasons
Japan has augmented its military forces, expanded their
responsibilities, and debated revising its pacifist constitution.
Tokyo also is considering developing nonnuclear weapons capable of
striking the North to preempt a missile launch against
Japan.111 Developments in
Pyongyang have even led to talk of Japan and South Korea developing
nuclear weapons. The U.S. could decide that regional deterrence is
a better policy than maintaining an American nuclear
umbrella.112 As discussed later,
such a prospect would greatly disturb Beijing but might encourage
China to do more.
Finally, chaos and violence lurk beneath the surface in the
North. The regime could turn out to be as brittle as Romania’s
Ceausescu regime, which ended with an ad hoc firing squad on
Christmas Day 1989. The very implosion Beijing fears might occur if
it doesn’t act.
Shared Response to a North Korean Crisis
Still, Washington should acknowledge the risks of pressing the
North — most obviously regime collapse if the PRC pulls the
economic plug — and commit, along with South Korea and Japan,
to share the cost with China. Sue Mi Terry at Columbia University
cheerfully urged the relevant parties to “promote reunification”
and not fear destabilizing North Korea: “Even if the North were to
implode now, that would be preferable to allowing the state to limp
along.”113 However, China cannot
treat the possibility of chaos and conflict on its border so
lightly. The United States, South Korea, and Japan should offer
financial assistance during the transition, including helping care
for refugees. (Similar commitments should be sought from
international agencies and non-governmental organizations.)
Moreover, allied governments should indicate their willingness
to accept temporary Chinese military intervention as a defensive
measure should the DPRK state collapse. Foreign Minister Wang Yi
recently said that “As the largest neighboring country of the
peninsula, China will not sit idly by and watch stability on the
peninsula be destroyed on a basic level.”114 The PRC is thought to be prepared to act
in service of goals ranging from securing nuclear facilities to
providing humanitarian assistance.115 The allies and Beijing should discuss
possible contingencies and respective responsibilities, including
strategies to avoid a potentially dangerous confrontation in the
midst of chaos and conflict.
Some analysts propose U.S. military intervention in such
circumstances.116 Bonnie Glaser
of the Center for Strategic and International Studies even
envisions “a need for U.S. forces to be north of the 38th parallel
for some time.”117 However, the
possibility of an extended U.S. military presence there would
likely impel China to intervene if the North Korean state faltered.
Best would be to keep American forces out.
In any case, China might be tempted to hold onto whatever it
acquired. Victor Cha, who served on the National Security Council
under George W. Bush, argued that the PRC is likely to “effectively
adopt it as a province” rather than “shed North
Korea.”118 Similarly, Andrew
Kydd of the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggested that
Beijing’s objective “would be an obedient buffer state/protectorate
that secures the Chinese frontier.”119
However, Korean nationalism might deter such an attempt. Violent
resistance to any outside intervention is possible if not likely;
under no circumstances can North Koreans be expected to become
obedient puppets.120 Moreover,
an advance understanding with the allies might limit Chinese
ambitions. Finally, from an allied standpoint, creation of a
Chinese satellite in the North still might be better than
preserving the existing regime with its nuclear arsenal.
To encourage eventual unification and discourage a Chinese land
grab, the United States and the ROK should pledge not to take
geopolitical advantage of China — in essence, to guarantee
that the PRC would not paradoxically lose the geopolitical chess
game by checkmating the North Korean king. That will require
allaying Chinese fears of U.S. containment.
So far there have been many proposals for half-measures.
Secretary Kerry indicated that America could reduce its Pacific
presence if the North Korea problem was solved.121 Andrei Lankov, who studied in the North
and now teaches in the South, suggested a joint U.S.-South Korean
“statement promising that upon unification no U.S. forces and/or
U.S. military installations will ever be located north of the
present-day DMZ area.”122 Glaser
and Billingsley similarly urged a pledge to keep American forces
away from the Yalu.
However, such geographic separation would mean little if Korea
was reunified. American forces could rapidly move to the Chinese
border and beyond in any conflict. Moreover, a shift of South
Korea’s military northward could open up additional bases in the
South that could back U.S. operations elsewhere in East Asia. The
PRC’s concerns may not be assuaged by limited offers.
Washington should make clear its intention to disengage
militarily once the Korean problem is solved. The United States
should pledge, in the event of reunification, to terminate its
mutual defense treaty with Seoul and bring American troops
home.123 Voluntarily beginning
to withdraw now would help convince Beijing that Washington was
serious and could be trusted to fulfill its commitment.
An American departure would free the South to negotiate with
Beijing over the details of reunification. Despite his nation’s
alliance with the United States, Park Chang Kwoun of the Korea
Institute for Defense Analyses advocated “properly managing the
rivalry between the two superpowers [the United States and China]
to [Seoul’s] advantage.”124
Previously, ROK analysts have argued that “South Korea should be
particularly careful not to let its alliance with the U.S. target
China.”125 Some South Koreans
argue that Seoul should look to regional multilateral mechanisms
for its security.126 Former
national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski opined “At the very
minimum, China would insist that a reunited Korea be a nonaligned
buffer between China and Japan and would also expect that the
historically rooted Korean animosity toward Japan would of itself
draw Korea into the Chinese sphere of influence.”127 The United States should accept any
geopolitical arrangement that promotes peace and stability in
Seoul also should promise to respect significant Chinese
economic interests. For instance, Beijing reportedly purchased
fishing rights from the DPRK for this year.128 Admittedly, rewarding those who profited
from dealing with the Kim clan would be painful. Nevertheless, the
overriding objective should be to convince China to cooperate
Moreover, the South should emphasize that the PRC is likely to
gain much more economically from a vastly more productive North
Korea reunited with the South. While today China accounts for 70
percent of the North’s trade, the DPRK accounts for less than 1
percent of China’s trade, leaving significant room for growth.
Chinese firms also find dealing with Pyongyang to be extremely
Reunification would dramatically increase economic activity,
commensurately expanding Chinese commercial
opportunities.130 Although the
PRC’s share of trade in the north would fall, its total trade
throughout the peninsula would increase dramatically. A bilateral
free trade agreement, already under discussion, would have even
There is a strong case for the PRC to deal with the North Korea
problem, and other influential regional states, such as Australia,
Indonesia, and Singapore could reinforce that message. These Asian
powers should emphasize that responsible PRC action would help ease
concern over Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in regional
territorial disputes. European nations also could emphasize
Beijing’s potential for global leadership. Does the PRC believe
that it deserves a say on the international stage equal to its
growing economic and military power? Helping to solve the North
Korea problem would be a strong argument in its favor. “The Chinese
could begin to play a valuable and prominent international role
right now,” argued Washington Post columnist Anne
Applebaum, “by eliminating one of the region’s most serious
If China Refuses to Act
The PRC, as well as North Korea, could say no. That would leave
the status quo essentially undisturbed. In that case, Glaser and
Billingsley suggested that the United States and its allies
penalize Beijing, ensuring “that severe negative consequences
result from China’s decision to stick to its current policy.” In
particular, the two analysts urged expanding U.S. military
activities, which they hoped “over time may compel Chinese leaders
to change their cost-benefit calculations in favor of greater
Such a policy would be counterproductive. Glaser and Billingsley
explained that their strategy “would not be aimed at increasing the
security threat to China,” but instead “would inevitably have a
negative impact on Chinese security.”133 Beijing might not recognize the fine
distinction between U.S. actions intended to undermine the PRC and
actions that merely have that effect. As a rising nationalistic
power, China seems more likely to balk than capitulate to outside
pressure. Undermining its security is more likely to generate an
in-kind response than concessions. As noted earlier, that appears
to be Beijing’s initial reaction to the planned THAAD deployment in
Rather than threaten China, the United States should point out
how North Korea’s current policies worsen the PRC’s security
situation. North Korea can be expected to continue its provocative
course. In desperation the regime might take additional risky
steps, such as engaging in nuclear proliferation to non-state
actors, which could spark U.S. military action. The countries most
directly threatened, South Korea and Japan, are likely to continue
expanding their own military capabilities and cooperating with the
United States in ways unsettling to Beijing, such as participating
in the THAAD missile defense.
If the PRC still refuses to help, the United States should go
one dramatic step further. Beijing appears to believe that
Washington will protect the PRC from the worst consequences of its
actions. Today the United States is committed to preventing nuclear
proliferation to Northeast Asia’s “good guys,” i.e. America’s
allies, which in practice leaves nuclear weapons only in the hands
of the “bad guys” (e.g., Russia, China, and North Korea). By
preventing the consequence of Pyongyang’s nuclear program that the
PRC likely most fears — a Japanese nuclear bomb —
Washington has reduced the cost of Beijing’s appeasement of the
Hao Yufan of the University of Macau cited the PRC’s concern
over “the potential spread of nuclear weapons to Japan, South
Korea, and ultimately to Taiwan. China takes these possible
developments very seriously.”134
President George W. Bush is said to have warned Beijing that Japan
could take such an action. Three years ago David Ignatius of the
Washington Post claimed that U.S. officials believed
Beijing had toughened its position toward North Korea out of fear
of that possibility, as well as other considerations.135
However, China obviously is not concerned enough. That is not
surprising. Since Washington both maintains a nuclear umbrella over
Japan and South Korea, and insists that they forswear nuclear
weapons, such threats that they might go nuclear lack force.
Strong U.S. pressure backed by a promise to shelter South Korea
under the U.S. nuclear umbrella caused President Park Chung-hee to
abandon the ROK’s incipient nuclear program a half century ago.
After the North’s 2006 nuclear test, ROK defense minister Yoon
Kwang-ung announced: “Due to public anxiety, I have stressed the
need for a nuclear umbrella from the U.S.”136 U.S. policy similarly discourages serious
consideration of the nuclear option by Tokyo, although strong
opposition to such weapons among the Japanese public also plays a
The DPRK and China count on U.S. policy to discourage potential
adversaries from acquiring their own deterrent capabilities.
Richard Weitz of the Hudson Institute observed: “the expectation,
in Beijing and elsewhere, is that none of these countries would
make the controversial decision to pursue their own nuclear
deterrents as long as they felt reassured that the United States
will protect them.”137
U.S. officials should indicate that if North Korea continues to
expand its atomic arsenal, they will reconsider their opposition to
South Korea’s and Japan’s acquisition of countervailing weapons. In
Washington’s view, it is not obviously in America’s interest to
remain permanently ensnared in such a dangerous nuclear tangle. If
nuclear weapons spread, North Korea would become a shared nightmare
with China. Such a policy obviously would be controversial, but is
gaining attention as an option. For instance, in March 2013 the
New York Times ran a special online forum debating the
question “Nuclear Neighbors for North Korea?”138
There long have been advocates of “going nuclear” in both South
Korea and Japan. North Korea’s provocations appear to have
increased support for such a controversial idea. In the ROK, for
instance, legislators, analysts, and citizens alike have urged
consideration of the nuclear option.139 A poll from the Asan Institute found that
two thirds of South Koreans favored the development of nuclear
weapons to deter the North. The Institute’s board chairman M. J.
Chung — a long-time member of the ROK National Assembly and
one-time presidential candidate — told the 2013 Carnegie
International Nuclear Policy Conference “We need to put all the
options on the table.”140
Members of the ruling Saenuri Party called for the South to create
its own nuclear deterrent.141
The discussion has become loud enough to draw attention from U.S.
The possibility would be more controversial in Japan, but it
would be reluctant to lag far behind the ROK. Despite significant
public resistance to the idea of becoming a nuclear power, Japanese
government officials as well as political commentators have
occasionally proposed developing nuclear weapons. A decade ago,
opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo
Fukuda discussed the possibility of doing so.143 In 2006, during Shinzo Abe’s previous
stint as prime minister, his foreign minister called for a debate
on the issue; Abe maintained a discreet silence.144 In his current role, Abe has taken a more
nationalistic and aggressive tone than his predecessors, and
expanded the military’s authority.
Of course, the decision to go nuclear would remain with Seoul
and Tokyo. But China could not ignore the possibility. Although it
possesses a nuclear arsenal, Beijing has responded sharply to past
speculation about its neighbors developing nuclear
weapons.145 Thus, Washington
should emphasize that China would have to deal with the
consequences if the North pushed the ROK and especially Japan over
the nuclear line. The blame would be on the PRC for failing to do
more to discourage North Korea’s nuclear development.
Nonproliferation advocates disdain that option. And the United
States ultimately might think better of implementing its threat
even if efforts to stop the North failed. There are obvious and
serious downsides to proliferation. However, dealing with the DPRK
is a matter of second bests. The most desirable outcome, voluntary
North Korean disarmament, is also the least likely. While Seoul and
Tokyo might be satisfied living under U.S. nuclear guarantees, such
commitments put America at greater risk of conflict. Washington
forever must worry about the latest eruptions from Pyongyang. Even
more important, Beijing’s increasing territorial assertiveness
could spark a regional confrontation with allied states that turned
into a global nuclear stand-off. U.S. acceptance of “friendly”
proliferation warrants debate and would be useful in negotiating
with China on a range of other regional issues.
Thus, the issue warrants serious discussion in Washington. The
difficult trade-offs should no longer simply be assumed away. At
the same time, U.S. officials should use the possibility of
“friendly” proliferation as a bargaining chip with China.
No doubt Beijing would be uncomfortable overturning decades of
policy toward North Korea. Although the status quo is
unsatisfactory, the PRC might still say no to Washington and its
allies. Nevertheless, the issue is too important to avoid. And the
best chance of a positive outcome is a concerted diplomatic
campaign to enlist China’s cooperation.
Pyongyang and Beijing appear to be ever further at odds over the
DPRK’s nuclear ambitions. North Korea reaffirms its intent to
remain a nuclear power while China maintains its commitment to
denuclearizing the peninsula. The critical question for the PRC:
Will it enforce or abandon its objective?
Gregory J. Moore of Zhejiang University contends that in recent
years “a subtle but quite remarkable transformation has taken place
in the relations between the two countries.”146 Hostility is sometimes openly expressed,
but so far the change has had little practical effect on PRC
proliferation policy. It is not enough for Beijing’s attitude
toward the North to change. China’s treatment of the North must
change. And that will happen only if the PRC decides to emphasize
denuclearization over stability.
A policy shift of that magnitude would require a significant
debate within a Chinese leadership that faces internal as well as
external challenges. Convincing the PRC to reverse support for its
long-time ally would be difficult. However, making a serious and
systematic case to Beijing is the best strategy among many poor
alternatives. Otherwise the United States should prepare to accept
the North as a de facto permanent nuclear power.
If Washington and the PRC were able to successfully collaborate
in this case, new possibilities for U.S.-Chinese cooperation might
open. Progress in Northeast Asia could help ease tensions
The Korean peninsula has reemerged as a candidate for the
world’s next big war. In the view of many U.S. officials and
observers, the road to a stable, peaceful, denuclearized Korean
Peninsula runs, however irregularly and uncertainly, through the
PRC. Despite the obvious difficulty in winning Chinese assistance,
the proposals outlined here offer a reasonable, and perhaps the
only, chance of defusing the next North Korean crisis before it
1. Quoted in Paul Richter, “Kerry Urges China to
Keep North Korea in Check,” Los Angeles Times, February
2. Park Si-soo, “Kim Jong-un ‘Exceptionally
Stubborn, not a Good Listener’: CIA,” Korea Times, July 1,
3. Anna Fifield, “South Korea: Execution Is Latest
Sign of Crisis in North,” Washington Post, September 1,
4. The interest in economic development obviously is
serious, and a significant portion of the economy is in
quasi-private hands, but the possibility of an entrepreneurial
explosion as occurred in China remains minimal. See, e.g., Charles
Clover and Song Jung-a, “Pyongyang Start-Up Seminar Hints at
Potential for Entrepreneurs,” Financial Times, July 8,
5. See, e.g., Andrew H. Kydd, “Pulling the Plug: Can
There Be a Deal with China on Korean Unification?” The
Washington Quarterly 38, no. 2 (Summer 2015): 65.
6. Although some economic reforms are occurring, no
dramatic changes were announced at the recent Korean Workers’ Party
conference, confounding the hopes of some observers. Georgy
Toloraya, “Why a North Korean Deng Xiaoping Should Not Be
Expected,” NK News, July 5, 2016,
7. Andrei Lankov, The Real North Korea: Life and
Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2013), pp. 111–16, 195–96. South
Korea’s existence even discourages economic reform within the
existing political system, as in China and Vietnam, he argues,
since increasing knowledge of the ROK’s success undermines the
North’s legitimacy. Andrei Lankov, “North Korea’s Choice: Collapse
or Reform,” Foreign Affairs, December 19, 2011,
8. See, e.g., Bruce Cumings, “The Kims’ Three
Bodies: Toward Understanding Dynastic Succession in North Korea,”
in Kyung-Ae Park and Scott Snyder, eds, North Korea in
Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society (Lanham, MD: Rowman
& Littlefield, 2013), pp. 67–90.
9. See, e.g., Andrei Lankov, “No Rush to Talk with
North Korea,” New York Times, August 9, 2009.
10. See, e.g., Andrei Lankov, “Why North Korea
Sanctions Are Unlikely to Produce Desirable Results,” NK
News, August 16, 2016,
11. Jayshree Bajoria, “The China-North Korea
Relationship,” Council on Foreign Relations, October 7, 2010,
12. Dick K. Nanto and Mark E. Manyin, “China-North
Korea Relations,” Congressional Research Service, December 28,
2010, 7-5700, R41043, p. 1; Dick K. Nanto, “Increasing Dependency:
North Korea’s Economic Relations with China,” Korea Economic
Institute, Korea’s Economy 2011 (Vol. 27), p. 82.
13. “China Announces Restrictions on Trade with
North Korea,” Reuters, April 5, 2016,
Kim Seong Hwan, “China Ratchets Up North Korea Sanctions,”
Daily NK, June 20, 2016,
Josh Rogin, “Satellite Imagery Suggests China Is Secretly Punishing
North Korea,” National Post, July 4, 2016,
“China’s Imports of N. Korean Goods Fall 12.6 pct in May,”
Korea Herald, June 22, 2016,
http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20160622001096; Choi Song
Min, “Sanctions Drive Trading Companies to Default on Payments,”
Daily NK. June 21, 2016,
Thomas Byrne, “Why the New Sanctions on North Korea Might Work,”
Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2016, p. A17; “N. Korea’s
Food Rations for Q2 Lowest Since 2011: Report,” Yonhap News Agency,
August 3, 2016,
Chad O’Carroll, “N. Korea’s Only International Law Firm Suspends
Operations: Reuters,” NK News, August 1, 2016,
14. Leo Byrne, “North Korean Trade in Sanctioned
Goods Continues with China,” NK News, June 30, 2016,
Jane Perlez and Yufan Huang, “China Keeps Luxury Goods Flowing for
North Korea,” New York Times, February 6, 2016, pp. A4,
A9; JH Ahn, “Check Individuals Visiting N. Korea for Sanctions
Violations, U.S. Says,” NK News, July 5, 2016,
www.nknews.org; Dursun Peksen, “Why Economic Sanctions Have Failed
against North Korea,” The Diplomat, July 8, 2016.
15. See, e.g., Elizabeth Shim, “China Border Trade
with North Korea ‘Very Active,’ Report Says,” UPI, August 22,
16. Leo Byrne, “China Cuts Online Access to North
Korean Trade Data,” NK News, April 4, 2016,
17. Jin Qiangyi of Yanbian University argued that
“China has to think about what will happen to the North Korean
economy, whether there will be other problems.” Quoted in James
Pearson and Ju-min Park, “Proposed North Korea Sanctions Dig Deep,
Implementation Falls to China,” Reuters, February 26, 2016,
Since Chinese enforcement traditionally has been lax, it would be
simple for the PRC to return to its previous practices.
18. Doug Bandow, “Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong
Time: Why Military Action Should Not Be Used to Resolve the North
Korean Nuclear Crisis,” Cato Institute, Foreign Policy Briefing,
no. 76, May 12, 2003, pp. 3–4.
19. Perry said that the administration chose not to
strike, while the late South Korean president Kim Young-sam wrote
that he dissuaded President Bill Clinton from launching the attack.
Compare Jamie McIntyre, “Washington Was on Brink of War with North
Korea 5 Years Ago,” CNN, October 4, 1999,
http://www.cnn.com/US/9910/04/korea.brink/; with Choe Sang-hun,
“Kim Young-sam, South Korean President Who Opposed Military, Dies
at 87,” New York Times, November 21, 2015; and Hyung-Jin
Kim, “Kim Young-san, South Korea’s President in the 1990s, Dies at
87,” Washington Post, November 22, 2015.
20. Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, “If
Necessary, Strike and Destroy,” Washington Post, June 22,
21. Bandow, “Wrong War,” p. 7; “How North Korea
Would Retaliate,” Stratfor, May 26, 2016,
The harm would be significant, but some analysts believe it would
be more limited than commonly thought. See, e.g., Roger Cavazos,
“Mind the Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality,” Nautilus Institute,
NAPSNet Special Reports, June 26, 2012,
22. See, e.g., Jim Michaels and Tom Vanden Brook,
“North Korea Could Inflict Significant Damage in Attack,” USA
Today, March 30, 2013
; Scott Stossel, “North Korea: The War
Game,” Atlantic, July/August 2005,
Anatoly Karlin, “How a Second Korean War Will Be Fought,”
Anatoly Karlin blog, March 28, 2010,
http://akarlin.com/2010/03/korean-war-2/; “Simulation: War on the
Korean Peninsula,” ABC News, January 14, 2007,
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=128509; Jim Mann,
“Scenarios for a 2nd Korean War Grim for U.S., South,” Los
Angeles Times, February 22, 1994.
23. See, e.g., Jamie McIntyre, “The Last Korean
Meltdown,” The Daily Beast, November 24, 2010,
Perry acknowledged that “there would be many, many tens of
thousands of deaths” and “the magnitude of the damage that North
Korea could do.” “Interview: Ashton Carter,” PBS, March 3, 2003,
24. Mark McDonald, “North Korea Suggests Libya
Should Have Kept Nuclear Program,” New York Times, March
24, 2011; Doug Bandow, “Thanks to Libya, North Korea Might Never
Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons,” The National Interest,
September 2, 2015,
Doug Bandow, “The End of Nonproliferation,” The National
Interest, April 1, 2011,
25. See, e.g., Doug Bandow, “Leaving Korea Will
Unburden U.S. Troops and Help South Korea Grow Up,” The
National Interest, July 6, 2016,
26. Doug Bandow, Tripwire: Korea and U.S.
Foreign Policy in a Changed World (Washington: Cato Institute,
1996); Ted Galen Carpenter and Doug Bandow, The Korean
Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and
South Korea (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
27. “Russia Provides More than 3,000 Tons of Flour
to N. Korea,” Yonhap News Agency, July 22, 2016,
28. Chen Ping, “China’s (North) Korea Policy:
Misperception and Reality (An Independent Chinese Perspective on
Sino-Korean Relations),” in Gilbert Rozman, ed., China’s
Foreign Policy: Who Makes It, and How Is It Made? (Seoul: The
Asan Institute for Policy Studies, 2012) p. 255.
29. Quoted in Jamil Anderlini et al., “Kerry to
Call on Beijing to Rein in North Korea,” Financial Times,
April 13–14, 2013.
30. Quoted in Joseph Bosco, “China Enables North
Korean Mischief,” Real Clear World, January 13, 2016,
31. Quoted in Kwanwoo Jun, “U.S. to Urge China to
Put More Pressure on North Korea,” Wall Street Journal,
June 3, 2016.
32. Quoted in William Wan, “N. Korea Tests Cause
Concern in China,” Washington Post, April 8, 2013.
33. Tim Hains, “Donald Trump on North Korea:
‘Without China They Wouldn’t Be Able to Eat,’ ‘We Have
Great Power over China,’” Real Clear Politics, January 7,
34. See, e.g., Brian Doherty, “Libertarian Gary
Johnson Clarifies Foreign Policy Stances,” Reason, June 3,
Alex Pfeiffer, “Exclusive: Gary Johnson Says the Threat of Radical
Islam Is ‘Overblown,’” Daily Caller, June 7, 2016,
35. Bonnie S. Glaser and Brittany Billingsley,
“Reordering Chinese Priorities on the Korean Peninsula,” Center for
Strategic and International Studies, November 2012, p. v.
36. You Ji, “Dealing with the ‘North Korea
Dilemma’: China’s Strategic Choices,” S. Rajaratnam School of
International Studies, RSIS Working Paper no. 229, June 21, 2011,
pp. 8–11. See also “North Korean Attitudes toward China: A
Historical View of Contemporary Difficulties,” North Korea
International Documentation project, April 6, 2009,
Charles Kraus, “China-North Korea Dossier no. 2: ‘China’s
Measure of Reserve’ toward Succession,” February 9, 2012,
37. See, e.g., Scott Snyder, “China’s Muddled
Message on North Korea,” Forbes, March 31, 2016,
38. See, e.g., Simon Tisdall, “Wikileaks Cables
Reveal China ‘Ready to Abandon North Korea,’”
Guardian, November 29, 2010,
39. Nanto and Manyin, “China-North Korea
Relations,” p. 3. One Weibo poll found that a large majority of
respondents supported U.S. military action against Pyongyang’s
nuclear program. Jane Perlez and Choe Sang-hun, “China Struggles
for Balance in Response to North Korea’s Boldness,” New York
Times, February 8, 2016, p. A4.
40. Bates Gill, “China’s North Korea Policy,”
United States Institute of Peace Special Report no 283, July 2011,
41. Adam Cathcart, “A Tale of Two North Koreas,”
Foreign Policy, December 30, 2011,
42. See, e.g., Steven Mufson, “Online, Chinese
Express Scorn for Longtime Ally,” Washington Post, April
14, 2013, p. A15; Jane Perlez, “North Korean Leader, Young and
Defiant, Strains Ties with Chinese,” New York Times, April
43. Jamil Anderlini, “North Korea Makes Public Its
Paranoia over China,” Financial Times, May 18, 2016.
Indicative of the contempt in which the Kim regime apparently holds
its nominal patron, defectors claim that the DPRK has been
counterfeiting Chinese yuan as well as U.S. dollars. Elizabeth
Shim, “North Korea Printing Massive Amounts of Fake Chinese
Currency, Defectors Say,” UPI, June 23, 2016, www.upi.com.
44. Michael D. Swaine, “China’s North Korea
Dilemma,” China Leadership Monitor (Fall 2009, no. 30),
Hoover Institution, p. 3.
45. Lee Jong-heon, “China’s Sanctions on North
Korea and Its Influence,” Vantage Point 36, no. 5 (May
46. Quoted in Malcolm Moore, “China ‘Shifts
Position’ on North Korea,” Daily Telegraph, April 5,
47. Quoted in Jeremy Page, “China Seeks North Korea
Solution,” Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2010.
48. See, e.g., David Ignatius, “Preparing for the
Worst with North Korea,” Washington Post, March 14, 2013,
49. Quoted in John Irish, “China Urges U.N. Action
to Make North Korea ‘Pay Price,’” Reuters, February 12, 2016,
50. Quoted in Ben Blanchard, “China Says It’s a
Mistake to Put ‘Blind Faith’ in UN Sanctions against North
Korea,” Business Insider, March 7, 2016,
51. Quoted in Jane Perlez, “Chinese Banks Brace for
U.S. Sanctions on North Korea,” New York Times, June 4,
52. Quoted in Jay Solomon, “U.S. Squeezes Banks
over North Korea,” Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2016.
53. Lee Ki-Hyun, “China’s Dilemma and its Policies
toward North Korea in the Kim Jong-un Era — Maintaining the
Status Quo while Managing a Difficult North Korea,” in Bae Jung-Ho
and Jae H. Ku, eds., China’s Domestic Politics and Foreign
Policies and Major Countries’ Strategies Toward China (Seoul:
Korea Institute for National Unification, 2012), p. 235.
54. Quoted in “China Weighs Up Opposing North Korea
Policies,” Deutsche Welle, March 27, 2013,
55. Quoted in Jane Perlez, “North Korea Tells China
of ‘Permanent’ Nuclear Policy,” New York Times, June
56. Quoted in Jane Perlez, “President of China
Meets with N. Korean Envoy,” New York Times, June 2,
57. Quoted in Leo Byrne, “China, North Korea
Criticize New U.S. Sanctions,” NK News, July 8, 2016,
58. See, e.g., Jane Perlez, “For China, a Missile
Defense System in South Korea Spells a Failed Courtship,” New
York Times, July 8, 2016; Hong Soon-do, “Anti-Korea Sentiment
Growing in China Due to THAAD,” Huffington Post, July 10,
JH Ahn, “Chinese Media Urges Economic Sanctions on THAAD Region,”
NK News, July 14, 2016,
59. Quoted in Kathrin Hille, “China Faces Dilemma
over Support for North Korea,” Financial Times, March 11,
60. Quoted in Michael R. Gordon, “China Set to
Press North Korea Further on Nuclear Aims, Kerry Says,” New
York Times, February 15, 2014.
61. Quoted in Ernesto Londono and Karen DeYoung,
“Senators Urge Engaging China in N. Korea Effort,” Washington
Post, April 10, 2013.
62. See, e.g., “U.S. Urges China to Pressure North
Korea,” Associated Press, July 10, 2006,
He continued to emphasize the PRC’s responsibility years later.
Lorraine Woellert, “China Pressure Key to Ease North Korea Tension,
McCain Says,” Bloomberg, April 7, 2013,
63. Hains, “Donald Trump on North Korea.”
64. Anders Corr, “Sanction China for Its Support of
North Korea … and So Much More,” Forbes, February 13,
65. Quoted in Cary Huang, “Why China-North Korea
Relations are More Complex than Ever,” South China Morning
Post, July 11, 2013,
66. Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, “China’s North
Korea Policy: Backtracking from Sunnylands?” 38 North, July 2,
67. Quoted in Monica Crowley, “Global Unrest a
Growing Concern at Home,” Fox News, December 21, 2011,
68. Quoted in Joshua Kurlantzick, “Kimpossible,”
New Republic, December 2, 2010,
69. Quoted in Jenna Johnson, “Donald Trump Wants
China to Make North Korea’s Kim Jong Un ‘Disappear,’”
Washington Post, February 10, 2016.
70. Mitchell Lerner, “Why China Is Not the Solution
to the Korean Crisis,” The Diplomat, June 3, 2013,
71. Interview with author, Beijing, May 29,
72. See, e.g., Scott Snyder, China’s Rise and
the Two Koreas: Politics, Economics and Security (Boulder, CO:
Rienner, 2009), p. 146; Robert E. Kelly, “The Curious Love-Hate
Relationship between China and North Korea,” The National
Interest, June 23, 2016,
Anderlini, “North Korea Makes Public Its Paranoia over China.”
73. Quoted in Jonathan D. Pollack, “China and North
Korea: The Long Goodbye?,” Brookings Institution, March 28, 2016,
A number of Americans have made similar points. See, e.g.,
74. Bruce Gilley, “An Immodest Proposal,” Wall
Street Journal, January 6, 2005.
75. Quoted in Johnson.
76. Quoted in Hille.
77. Anne Applebaum, “In China, Slogans vs. Action,”
Washington Post, April 4, 2013.
78. Glaser and Billingsley, p. vi.
79. Kydd, p. 72.
80. Quoted in “China Not a ‘Responsible World
Power’: McCain,” The Economic Times, November 29, 2010,
81. Quoted in Kleine-Ahlbrandt.
82. See, e.g., Glaser and Billingsley, p. 12.
83. Lee Dong-jun, “U.S. Wants to Pass Buck over
North Korea but China Ready for Deal,” Asian Review, May
30, 2013, p. 13.
84. Drew Thompson and Natalie Matthews, “Six-Party
Talks and China’s Goldilocks Strategy: Getting North Korea Just
Right,” Korea Economic Institute, Tomorrow’s Northeast Asia:
Joint U.S.-Korea Academic Studies 21 (2011): 183.
85. Kydd, “Pulling the Plug,” p. 64.
86. Lankov, The Real North Korea, p.
87. Nanto and Manyin, p. 8.
88. Nathaniel Aden, “North Korean Trade with China
as Reported in Chinese Customs Statistics: 1995–2009 Energy
and Minerals Trends and Implications,” Nautilus Institute, Workshop
Paper, June 7, 2011, p. 14.
89. See, e.g., Nanto, “Increasing Dependency,” pp.
90. “What Is the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” BBCr,
February 10, 2016,
Korea’s Economic Reliance on China Deepens in 2015,” Yonhap News
Agency, June 21, 2016,
91. Gordon G. Chang, “Implications of China’s
Economic Penetration of North Korea,” Jamestown China
Brief 11, no. 13 (July 15, 2011),
92. Discussing what might occur are Bruce W.
Bennett, Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean
Collapse (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 2013); and
Bruce W. Bennett and Jennifer Lind, “The Collapse of North Korea:
Military Missions and Requirements,” International
Security 2, no. 36 (Fall 2011): 119.
93. Quoted in Bajoria, “The China-North Korea
94. Snyder, China’s Rise and the Two
Koreas, p. 119.
95. Thompson and Matthews, “Six-Party Talks,” pp.
183–84; Sunny Lee, “Chinese Perspectives on North Korea and
Korean Unification,” Korea Economic Institute Academic Paper
Series, January 24, 2012, p. 7.
96. See, e.g., Robert E. McCoy, “Ethnic Koreans in
China not Bound to N. Korea,” NK News, June 28, 2016,
97. Gregory J. Moore, “Beijing’s Problem with an
Operationally Nuclear North Korea,” in Gregory J. Moore, ed.,
North Korean Nuclear Operationality: Regional Security and
Nonproliferation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
2014), p. 96.
98. Lee Ki-Hyun, p. 219.
99. Quoted in Yu Ziaodong, “Friends Like These,”
NewsChina, May 2013, p. 54.
100. Lee Ki-Hyun, p. 238.
101. Interview in Beijing, May 29, 2013.
102. Quoted in Javier C. Hernandez, “China, in
Rebuke, Suggests U.S. Worsened Ties with North Korea,” New York
Times, January 8, 2006.
103. Quoted in “China Media: North Korea
Sanctions,” BBC, March 8, 2013,
104. Quoted in “China Urges United States, North
Korea to Hold Direct Talks,” Reuters, February 15, 2016,
105. Hui Zhang, “China’s North Korea Dilemma,”
Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2013.
106. Glaser and Billingsley, “Reordering Chinese
Priorities,” p. v.
107. Gideon Rachman, “Prepare for Endgame in North
Korea,” Financial Times, March 11, 2003.
108. You Ji, p. 17.
109. See, e.g., Mark Landler and Martin Fackler,
“An American Warning to China Causes a Ripple Effect on the Korean
Peninsula,” New York Times, January 21, 2011.
110. Quoted in Anne Gearan, “Kerry: China to
‘Bear Down’ on Pyongyang,” Washington Post, April
111. Thomas J. Christensen, “The Advantages of an
Assertive China,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 2 (March/April
112. Doug Bandow, “The Case for ‘Friendly’
Proliferation,” Foreign Affairs Online, July 26, 2016,
Doug Bandow, “America’s Brain Dead Policy toward the Korean
Peninsula: Time for South Korea — and Japan — to
Develop Nuclear Weapons?” Forbes, August 11, 2014,
113. Sue Mi Terry, “A Korea Whole and Free: Why
Unifying the Peninsula Won’t Be So Bad after All,” Foreign
Affairs, June 18, 2014,
114. Quoted in Blanchard, “China Says It’s a
115. You Ji, “Dealing with the ‘North Korea
Dilemma,’” pp. 13–14, 18; Snyder, China’s Rise and the
Two Koreas, p. 156.
116. For instance, the RAND Corporation’s Bruce W.
Bennett suggested creating lines of separation in case the United
States, ROK, and China all moved into a failed North Korea.
Bennett, pp. 273–75.
117. Quoted in Ha-young Choi, “China Will Uphold
Its Interests with North Korea: Glaser,” NK News, May 4,
118. Victor Cha, “China’s Newest Province?”
New York Times, December 20, 2011.
119. Kydd, p. 67.
120. The possibilities are considered in Andrei
Lankov, “Post-Coup North Korea: A China-Controlled Future Puppet
State?” NK News, July 12, 2016,
121. Quoted in Gearan, “Kerry: China to ‘Bear
122. Lankov, The Real North Korea, p.
123. Bandow, Tripwire; Carpenter and
124. Park Chang Kwoun, “The Deepening Rivalry
between the United States and China and Its Influence on the
Regional Order and National Security of the ROK,” Korea Institute
for Defense Analyses, Korea Journal for Defense Analysis,
Issue 13, December 21, 2015, p. 7.
125. Park Jong-chul et al., “Easing International
Concerns over a Unified Korea and Regional Benefits of Korean
Unification,” Korea Institute for National Unification Study Series
13-03, July 2013, p. 37.
126. Ibid., p. 18.
127. Quoted in Ping, pp. 269–70.
128. JH Ahn, “North Korea Sold Fishing Rights to
China for $30 Million, Lawmaker Claims,” NK News, July 1,
129. Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland, “Economic
Relations Between China and North Korea: Evidence from a Firm-Level
Survey,” Appendix B, in Glaser and Billingsley, “Reordering Chinese
Priorities,” p. 54.
130. See, e.g., Terry.
132. Glaser and Billingsley, p. 24.
134. Hao Yufan, “China’s Korea Policy in the
Making,” in Rozman, China’s Foreign Policy, p. 278.
135. David Ignatius, “A U.S.-China Test,”
Washington Post, June 2, 2013.
136. Quoted in Peter Alford, “S Korea Demands US
Nuclear Shield,” Australian, October 6, 2006,
137. Richard Weitz, “Global Insights: South Korea
Does Not Need Nuclear Weapons,” World Politics Review,
February 26, 2013,
138. “Nuclear Neighbors for North Korea?” Room for
Debate, New York Times, March 11, 2013,
139. “Saenuri Calls for Nuclear Capability to
Deter the North,” Korea Joongang Daily, February 19, 2013,
Weitz, “Global Insights”; Samuel Songhoon Lee, “Hawks Urge South
Korea’s Nuclear Armament,” Korea Herald, February 15,
2013; Martin Fackler and Choe Sang-hun, “As North Korea Blusters,
South Flirts with Talk of Nuclear Arms,” New York Times,
March 11, 2013.
140. M.J. Chung, “Thinking the Unthinkable on the
Korean Peninsula,” Keynote delivered at the 2013 Carnegie
International Nuclear Policy Conference, Washington, D.C., April 9,
2013, p. 6.
141. “Saenuri Calls for Nuclear Capability to
Deter the North”; Samuel Songhoon Lee, “Hawks Urge South Korea’s
142. See, e.g., Weitz, “Global Insights”; “South
Korea’s Nuclear Future,” World Politics Review, June 21,
143. Howard W. French, “Taboo against Nuclear Arms
Is Being Challenged in Japan,” New York Times, June 9,
144. “Japan’s New Leader,” Economist,
November 27, 2006, http://www.economist.com/node/8341099.
145. See, e.g., Elaine Lies, “Japan PM Scrambles
to Contain Nuke Remark Fallout,” Reuters, June 3, 2002.
146. Moore, “Beijing’s Problem with an
Operationally Nuclear North Korea.” p. 77.