Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has surprised many with his actions domestically but few are betting on any drastic changes from him in China’s policy on and support for its ally North Korea. Observers say Xi will opt for the status quo.
After North Korea’s rocket launch, which fired a weather satellite into space on December 12, China’s foreign ministry expressed “regret” at the development. Meanwhile China’s diplomats have opposed the UN’s attempts to punish its ally with more sanctions.
North Korea is the only country China has inked a security treaty with – in 1961 – which compels them to provide military aid if either party comes under attack.
Singapore-based analyst Li Mingjiang said Beijing wants to keep Pyongyang as one of its few true friends, especially after seeing its south-western neighbor Myanmar leaning further away from China with its democratic reforms since 2010.
Analyst Scott Harold of the US-based think-tank Rand Corporation cited a belief in Communist China that liberalization of another Communist country would “constitute a loss for Beijing”.
There is also a growing belief among some that Beijing is being held ransom – perhaps unwittingly – by Pyongyang.
Japan’s former defense minister Yuriko Koike said the North’s latest action showed its belief that “a more robust vision of national defense in Japan and South Korea would antagonize China, which, isolated in East Asia, will then be more likely to maintain its support for the Kim regime.
“Thus, the missile launch can be viewed as an indication of how threatened the Kim dynasty feels – the regime appears to believe that it must blackmail its closest ally in order to maintain its support,” wrote Koike in a Project Syndicate article last Friday.