Is China obliged to protect North Korea?

UN sanctions with loopholes


Read on one side

At the same time, however, a stable North Korea is still strategically important from the Chinese point of view. It serves as a buffer against South Korea and the troops of the US allies stationed there. If the Kim regime and the country collapse, US troops could move as far as the Chinese border. Another nightmare for Beijing's politicians would be the possible wave of refugees to the prosperous neighboring country China. And nobody wants the North Koreans' nuclear weapons to fall into the wrong hands in such a case.

The leadership in Beijing has a great interest in the continued existence of the North Korean regime and is making a decisive contribution to maintaining it. Among other things, China sells food and oil to the North Koreans and purchases raw materials on the other hand. Although Beijing, when the new UN sanctions came into force on minerals and coal in the spring of 2016, still gave the impression that it would go along with it, later in the year trade was resumed normally in the border area, as Benjamin Katzenff Silberstein von did North Korean Economy Watch reported.

Most of North Korea's foreign trade goes through China, and since the sanctions allow exceptions to secure the livelihoods of the North Koreans, Beijing continued to buy coal and other goods from the neighboring country on this pretext.

Away from coal and smog

Another reason for the Chinese decision to stop these imports now may be that China wants to get away from its dependence on coal for its energy supply, which is why coal imports are to be restricted in general. This is not only due to increasing global warming, which China has also pledged to fight. China's citizens also suffer from urban coal smog, which the government cannot control. This leads to resentment, especially in the urban middle class, and scratches the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party.

In the end, therefore, it can simply be that one in Beijing believes that one could kill several birds with one stone with the temporary coal shopping stop: A small offer to Trump, the disrespectful Kim Jong Un to show the limits and a little on their own Screw energy policy. What is certain, however, is that Beijing would not tolerate anything that could actually destabilize North Korea - any more than the Kim regime will probably allow nuclear weapons to be negotiated away.

But at least some diplomatic movement can come into the dangerous North Korea conflict. The question now is whether and how Trump will react.