Any China sanctions on North Korea over nuclear programme unlikely to be severe
Observers say that Beijing wants to rein in Pyongyang’s ambitions but not at the expense of the collapse of the regime, which would bring instability just as the Chinese leadership meets for a critical reshuffle
Any additional sanctions by China on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme are likely to be light to ensure stability of the Pyongyang regime, according to experts.
Beijing has sensed the urgency of preventing North Korea from conducting another test of a nuclear weapon, especially ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s congress later this year that will see a leadership reshuffle, but it was very unlikely for Beijing to bow to pressure to get tough on the North from the US and Japan.
“The most recent ballistic missile test was Pyongyang’s way of expressing anger, but I think this can be tolerated by Beijing, since what Beijing cares most about is whether Pyongyang is developing nuclear weapons,” said Hwang Jae-ho, an expert on Northeast Asian regional security at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.
“Beijing will try to put pressure on North Korea not to conduct a nuclear test before the Communist Party congress, for the sake of a stable environment. Beijing knows Pyongyang can hardly give up its nuclear ambitions, but Beijing can put up with Pyongyang’s moves as long as the North refrains from nuclear tests and firing intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Hwang added.
China is North Korea’s economic lifeline and is concerned that a collapse of the regime would mean a pro-US government and US troops right on its doorstep.
Huang Jing, an analyst at National University of Singapore, said any tougher Chinese sanctions against Pyongyang might include curbing imports from and exports to North Korea, limiting the travel of its diplomats, freezing its overseas bank accounts and banning luxurious products to Pyongyang’s elite families.
The United States and China are discussing the timing of a new Security Council resolution that would toughen sanctions against North Korea in response to its latest ballistic missile launches, US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley said on Tuesday. Japan was also seeking to work closely with China over the threat from the North.
Lee Kyu-tae, an expert on geopolitics at South Korea’s Catholic Kwandong University, said Beijing is unlikely to back severe sanctions against the North.
“Faced with mounting international pressure, Beijing will surely respond to Pyongyang’s missile launch. But sanctions, should there be any, will not be severe because the latest missiles launched by Pyongyang were all short or medium range.”
China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, made clear last week that Beijing’s top priority is to restart talks with North Korea following its multiple tests to try to reduce tensions rather than impose new sanctions.
He stressed that all progress with Pyongyang on eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula has come through dialogue.