The limits of China’s patience with North Korea

[Excerpt by Scott A. Snyder from Council of Foreign Relations site]

A major foreign policy achievement that has thus far been credited to South Korean President Park Geun-hye during her first year in office has been the establishment of a stronger foundation for good relations with China.

Park and China’s president Xi Jinping have routinely made time for each other at multilateral summits, most recently on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague. The hospitality afforded to Park stands in stark contrast both to the tensions that had characterized Sino-South Korean relations under Lee Myung-Bak and China’s treatment of Kim Jong-un, who remains in the dog house with Xi following nuclear and missile tests.

It will be interesting to see whether Beijing revises its assessment of Park following her Dresden speech and whether an improved Sino-South Korean relationship will influence China’s policies toward Pyongyang in the event of new North Korean provocations such as a fourth nuclear test or another inter-Korean clash in the West Sea.

What will Park and Xi be able to gain from a warming Sino-ROK relationship that thus far, symbolically at least, seems primarily to have developed at the expense of Kim Jong-un? And to what extent does Kim’s likely pique with Beijing carry costs, possibly including to stability in North Korea itself, that remain the sine qua non of China’s policy toward the peninsula? Read more    

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