So far Kim Jong Un has refused to listen to the international community, leaving many to wonder if anyone can appeal to the leader, and defuse the crisis.
All eyes are turned on China. Of all the regional powers, analysts say, China has the greatest potential leverage over its traditional ally.
Chinese troops fought side by side with the North Koreans during the Korean War that left the Korean peninsula divided. And over the years it has supplied the North with much of its fuel, food and other resources. China could stop doing this at any time but it has rarely done so.
“Chinese netizens say, ‘if we squeeze it for one week, what do you do the next week? You have to un-squeeze because we can’t let them die,'” explained Sunny Lee, a South Korean writer and scholar. “They think it’s an ineffective strategy from the start.”
China fears the specter of millions of starving refugees crossing into China along its 1,400-kilometer (880 mile) border with North Korea. It also fears a united Korea under the control of South Korea, a close U.S. ally.
To date, none of China’s current leadership has met with Kim Jong Un.