China Hopes Mediation will Restore its Alliance with North Korea
Wednesday, January, 30, 2013
Mediation may be China’s best effort in halting North Korea’s nuclear testing that is expected to occur in the upcoming weeks. According to the ChosunIlbo, a South Korean news source, an unnamed Beijing diplomat was quoted in saying that "China is looking into a wide range of measures to stop North Korea from conducting a nuclear test. Those measures include sending a delegation to North Korea."
According to the same news source, China is preparing for its response if the mediation talks fail and North Korea proceeds with its intent to conduct a third round of nuclear testing. Hong Lei of the Chinese Foreign Ministry spoke in a news conference this past Monday, revealing that China “opposes any actions that could heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula or adversely affect denuclearization." However, since satellite imagery of North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility is showing a state of readiness, many Beijing officials have doubts that even mediation will assist in slowing North Korea’s nuclear testing program.
According to US’ 38 North, a website that tracks and analyzes North Korea’s military activities and is run by former US State Department official Joel S. Wit, "Snowfall and subsequent clearing operations as well as tracks in the snow reveal ongoing activity at buildings and on roadways near the possible test tunnel.” The site continues to state that “A photo from 4 January identifies a group of personnel, possibly troops or security guards, in formation in the yard of the administrative area near the test tunnel entrance, perhaps to greet visiting officials or for some other more routine purpose."
While China has remained North Korea’s primary ally, there is increasing concern among Beijing officials about North Korea’s blatant disregard for United Nations sanctions. North Korea still continues to threaten continuation of its nuclear program despite sanctions placed on the country by the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council. Additionally, North Korea has warned its neighboring South Korea that it will take “strong physical counter-measures” against South Korea if the country “takes a direct part” in the sanctions placed against North Korea by the United Nations.
Meanwhile, North Korea is in the process of losing its Chinese alliance. The Global Times, one of China’s official news sources, stated earlier this month that Beijing is threatening to cut its aid to North Korea if nuclear testing or testing of long-range missiles occurred in Pyongyang. Such a cut in aid would include the approximate 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of food aid and 500,000 tonnes of oil that China provides annually to North Korea to assist its impoverished citizens.