From a CNN opinion piece by Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing:
Beijing has long seen itself as the arbitrator between Pyongyang and Washington in addressing North Korean nuclear proliferation, as China … pushed to preserve the status quo on the Korean Peninsula.
But this is changing – North Korea is now China’s problem. This means that President Obama should take full advantage of his meeting with President Xi Jinping in California to offer help in finding a way to compel Pyongyang to alter its behavior.
While some argue that Beijing doesn’t hold significant leverage to shape Pyongyang’s behavior, without China’s strong support at the United Nations and economic and humanitarian assistance, North Korea’s continued existence would be uncertain.
There are clear reasons for China to address its North Korea problem. China’s security interests have evolved over the past three decades as the country has prospered and achieved feats of development unparalleled in modern history. Xi has spoken about an enhanced Chinese leadership role in the Asia-Pacific, but this goal will be hard to achieve if China is unable to rein in the reckless behavior of its unruly neighbor.
Efforts to boost China’s soft power and international image are undermined every time North Korea defies China’s pleas. And if North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities continue to advance, China should expect an enhanced U.S. security posture in the region – not something Beijing wants.
China is beginning to take steps in this direction through toughened public statements, the closure of North Korean accounts in Chinese banks, and a significant drop off in cross-border trade. South Korean President Park Geun-hye was also invited for a summit with Xi in late June, while the North Korean leader has not, despite apparent repeated requests. China is clearly sending the North Korean regime a message that business as usual is no longer acceptable.
A new window for diplomacy is now opening as North Korea becomes more China’s problem than Washington’s – and Beijing has a responsibility to come up with credible diplomatic options.