North Korea’s latest nuclear test will pile the pressure on China — the country’s economic benefactor and only real ally — to rein in Kim Jong Un’s regime.
But, even if it were willing, Beijing increasingly appears unable to influence its unruly neighbor.
“It won’t cut off economic ties completely; that would make China vulnerable to North Korea threats… and a potential collapse,” says Tong Zhao, an associate at the Carnegie Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.
Relations between Pyongyang and Beijing have been frosty since Kim Jong Un succeeded his late father as dictator, promptly purging several key government figures — such as his uncle Jang Song Thaek — with strong ties to China.
Kim has never visited China as leader, nor has he met President Xi Jinping, despite reportedly lobbying to do so for several years.
Concerning the North Korean nuclear test back in January, Mike Chinoy, former CNN international correspondent and the author of “Meltdown: The inside story of the North Korean nuclear crisis,” had called it a “real slap in the face” for China.
In March, China joined the international community in placing the toughest ever sanctions on the country. Speaking on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to say if China would support new, tougher sanctions.