The death of Kim Jong-Il has again brought Sino-Korean relations to the forefront of international debate. Those who oppose North Korean despots and their destructive ways have found discomfort in the aid provided by China throughout their history. Obviously, the Communist party connection is hard to break, but on other policy matters the North Koreans are simply unreasonable. Even though the Chinese seem to know this, they remain loyal to them as allies anyway. Therefore, many critics believe China is using North Korea as a proxy to irritate America and her western allies.
Dwindling Allies for China
Without their power as a trading nation, China would have even fewer allies than they do today. As it is, the Chinese government has fewer allies than it would hope. North Korea has been a longtime friend and ally to China, especially after the Korean War in the 1950’s. This is one ally that China does not want to lose.
A study performed by the Council on Foreign Relations in June 2008 explained that China is “North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner, and main source of food, arms, and fuel…Pyongyang is economically dependent on China…has accounted for nearly 90% of the country’s energy imports.” Therefore, it is also in China’s interest to maintain close ties with North Korea for economic reasons.
A Crack in China’s Relationship with North Korea
Within the past couple of years, China’s relationship with North Korea has turned sour in many ways. For the Chinese government, a neighbor with nuclear weapons does not seem appealing. After many years of aligning themselves with the North Koreans, the Chinese finally stated that they were opposed to nuclear testing in 2006. They even recommended U.N. sanctions on the country.
Since then tensions have become even more strained. The North Korean sinking of ROKS Cheonan and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong has upset the Communist government in China. Although American pressure party explains their tough stance on their northern allies, it is obvious that there are riffs between China and North Korea. The Chinese relationship with her North Korean allies is not as well cemented as it was.
Most recently, China is trying to patch their relationship with North Korea after condemning their missile launch earlier this year. While the Chinese will not go so far as to endorse North Korean claims to grow their own missile program, the Chinese are stuck in a proverbial rock and a hard place. They are well aware of what is at stake.
Chinese Relations with North Korea Moving Forward
The Chinese relations with North Korea moving forward are hard to tell. The Communist party is increasingly extricating itself from ties with North Korea, but the historic bond still remains. It may be possible that this is a trough in their relationship, which will shortly be followed by a peak. In any case, the American government and people will be very interested to keep an eye on developments in that part of the world.