It remains a big “if” whether the latest nuclear test in North Korea leads to stern Chinese action against the Pyongyang regime. But if that big “if” comes off, the civilized world may at last find the levers to move North Korea toward a more-responsible course.
China joined North Korea’s neighbors in condemning the underground nuclear blast. In Beijing, the North Korean ambassador was summoned for an official protest.
China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, said Beijing was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” to the test and urged the North to end its bellicose rhetoric “or acts that could worsen the situation, and return to the right course of dialogue and consultation as soon as possible.”
That is significant because China is North Korea’s biggest donor. North Korea’s crumbled economy, wrecked by Communism for decades, is dependent on its huge neighbor. But alas, China has new friends — the trading partners that have made its transition to a more-capitalist economy possible. Those, from South Korea to Japan to the United States and Europe, are the audience for China’s protest against the new explosion.
“The test is hugely insulting to China, which now can be expected to follow through with threats to impose sanctions,” Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told Reuters.
We hope that is the case. The United States and its allies have limited leverage. China has virtually unlimited leverage, but on the basis of past experience will use it sparingly against North Korea.
Perhaps this latest outrage will make the case that China cannot afford an unstable client state across the Yalu River.