Beijing played along with North Korea’s political theater: Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a letter to Kim Jong-un, congratulating him on adding another title to his name – chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said China hopes to enhance its ties with the North.
However, in an editorial Wednesday, the state-run China Daily opined that North Korea’s economic and nuclear goals conflict with each other, and that Kim Jong-un doesn’t seem to care.
“He appears unaware that his nuclear ambitions are poison for his country’s economy,” stated the strongly worded editorial. “They will not only exhaust his country’s very limited resources, but will further isolate his country from the rest of the world, politically and economically.”
Fearful that economic collapse in North Korea could dangerously destabilize its own border regions, China is wary of squeezing the errant Kim too hard. Shi Yinghong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University, says that China’s leaders have no choice now but to recognize Kim as North Korea’s unchallenged leader.
China’s reasons for opposing North Korea’s nuclear program have only partly to do with fears of an accident or rogue attack. China worries that North Korea’s nuclear weapons give the United States an excuse to bolster its military presence on the Korean peninsula, part of a larger policy of “containment.”
Since Kim came to power in 2011, Beijing and Pyongyang have barely been on speaking terms. Neither Kim nor China’s Xi have paid state visits to each other’s country. China last week did not send a delegation to the congress, as it did in 1980, apparently because it was not invited.
[Christian Science Monitor]