Prior to his death, Kim Jong Il visited China to introduce his heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, to Chinese senior leaders. And as he had done many times, Kim Jong Il also asked for continued economic and military aid and political support.
China-North Korean ties are so close they are frequently described “as close as lips and teeth.” The the two neighbors were Korean War allies.
Of all the regional powers, Beijing has the greatest potential leverage over Pyongyang. China supplies at least 80% of North Korea’s oil and significant amounts of food, fertilizer and military aid. The two Communist neighbors have frequent political, military and party-to-party exchanges.
Former CNN correspondent, Mike Chinoy, a veteran Korea-watcher who has visited North Korea several times, said: “The Chinese have made it extremely clear that they are not going to let Korea go down the drain. They are going to do whatever they need to do to prop it up.”
Foremost in Beijing’s mind, North Korea serves as a buffer, keeping the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea away from the Chinese border.