There are clear indications that wars had been the primary reason China and North Korea had stayed together for centuries. In the beginning, the Manchuria battle China and North Korea fought against the Japanese Forces became the initial foundation for military and economic alliance between the two countries, as North Korean Army fought fervently alongside Chinese soldiers to drive back the Japanese they both perceived as their common enemy.
This collaboration had possibly led to the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty signed in 1961, which mandated that in case either of the two countries was attacked by an enemy, the other will mobilize its troops and come to the attacked country’s assistance. China has always shown its resolve to protect North Korea right from the time the latter provoked a war with its southern neighbor, South Korea in 1950, which is popularly referred to as “the Korean War”. But new revelations confirm that many Chinese leaders have stopped seeing that war as an external aggression from outsiders (South Korea, United Nations’ Forces and the US inclusive), but that it was an errant act of offensive primarily perpetrated by North Korea’s yearning for military warfare then.
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China’s shifting policies
Over the decades, China has long shifted its policies from fighting enemies to building mutually benefitting diplomatic relationships with many countries around the world. President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 opened the doors to a flurry of trade agreements that brought the two countries closer than ever before. China also went ahead to rack up trade agreements with Japan, its erstwhile aggressor. Today, there are thousands of Japanese businesses operating in China.
On the other hand, North Korean leaders, beginning from Kim ll-Sung to Kim Jong-il to its current leader, Kim Jong-un, have technically isolated themselves and their people from the rest of the world. Juche, the Korean word for the philosophy of engaging in voluntary isolation, has been widely embraced by the North Korean leaders and their followers: A misleading ideology that had shut the nation away from receiving economic and humanitarian aids from international donors when it badly needed them. Take for example, the deadly famine of the 1990s that killed millions of North Koreans would have been averted if North Korea had put itself in a situation whereby other world leaders will be willing to come to its rescue whenever any unexpected disaster occurred. China still remains the largest supplier of food, energy, clothing and other resources to the reclusive country, and that good gesture may soon be truncated as China battles with its own economic challenges domestically.
For the fact that North Korean leaders have repeatedly refused despite China’s encouragement to open up their country and liberate their citizens, China may be gradually losing interest in the “headache” that is “North Korea” Considering its diplomatic romance with many nations, Chinese leaders can clearly see that keeping their alliance with North Korea is indeed a thorn in their flesh.
Another misstep that have always made Chinese leaders feel quite uncomfortable about their association with North Korea is the latter’s foray into the proliferation of nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction. The reclusive nation has developed its Yongbyon nuclear center to the extent that experts are concerned that North Korea may soon possess missiles with nuclear warheads that could reach South, Japan and the United States. Little information trickling out of the communist state confirms that active uranium enrichment is underway and North Korea has added more centrifuges (about 2000 of them) to its nuclear center that will facilitate this dangerous step. According to David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, “Kim Jong Un’s regime could already have 10 to 15 nuclear weapons at this point. Pyongyang could increase its stockpile to anywhere between 20 and roughly 100 nuclear weapons by 2020,” he said.
This is an alarming figure for leaders in the region who had witnessed perennial tension in the past decades. North Korea periodically launched long-range missiles into the sea between Japan and South Korea in what experts referred to as “unnecessary provocations”.
Spearheaded by non-nuclear China, serious efforts to resolve this nuclear issue has always hit the rocks due to North Korea’s defiance and repeatedly walking out of The Six Party Talks, which comprised of six nations such as the United States, Russia, China, South Korea, Japan and North Korea itself. It is obvious that the most inscrutable nation in the world has no plan to scrap its nuclear program. Its unwillingness to give in to the recommendations from the Six Party Talks reveal deliberate determination to frustrate every attempt to absolutely rid the Korean Peninsula of all nuclear weapons.
China – South Korea relations, warnings for North Korea
Without cutting its ties outright with North Korea because of the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty that is still valid until 2021, China has been making some drastic moves to send serious signals to the North Korean leaders. Just of recent, Chinese leaders and business people have been flying in and out of Seoul, enjoying a long-term business relationship that began when China opened its Embassy in South Korea in 1992. There are some trade agreements between the two countries, a large percentage of which are made during the current administration of President Park Geun-Hye, who maintains very close relationship with the Chinese leaders. Today, China has surpassed the United States to become South Korea’s largest trading partner. In the same manner, China has intensified its business alliances with Japan and the United States, two key nations that North Korea perceive as deadly enemies.
North Korean leaders have not failed in detecting this change in China’s disposition towards them, and they have responded in the same demeaning way. Whenever a high-level Chinese delegation visits the isolated nation, North Korea will send low-level officials to hold meetings with them. And it is generally believed that Kim Jong-un doesn’t have deep-rooted trust in Chinese leaders.
Now that China has tactically abandoned North Korea to its fate, which nation will they turn to for friendship, military and diplomatic alliances? Russia? Cuba? Or Iran? It almost impossible for any country to throw its gates open and embrace North Korea as an ally. The country’s poor human rights records have caused some world leaders to quickly raise alarm about the inhumane treatment meted on average North Koreans. A report issued by the United Nations castigated North Korea for torturing, maiming and assassinating its people. Of recent, Kim Jong-un executed his uncle for what pundits perceive as an opportunity for the young leader to solidify power in the country. He may have seen his uncle as a possible leadership threat because he knew a lot about the country—he was Kim Jong-un’s father right-hand man.
As the world economies tumble and stagger, it is impossible to speculate exactly the state of North Korea’s economy. Are ordinary North Koreans having access to the basic necessities like food, water, energy, education and health? Or are they still suffering from famine but the North Korean propaganda machine hiding the truth from the rest of the world? No one can tell: But what is undeniable is that Chinese leaders’ attitude to North Korea has changed, and it may get worse if North Korea continues to choose the path of voluntary isolation!