Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

China has spelt out its DPRK policy

By Zhao Lixin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-08 07:54

China has spelt out its DPRK policy
Top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un gives an on-site inspection to the Korean April 26 Cartoon Film Studio together with his sister Kim Yo-yong (C). [Photo/IC]

Many observers have interpreted China's policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in recent times as "not-so-tolerant", especially because Beijing backed UN-led sanctions against Pyongyang after it conducted its third nuclear test in 2013. The purge and execution of Jang Song-thaek, once-powerful uncle of top DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, at the end of last year too dealt a blow to China-DPRK ties.

But such speculations, which understate the relationship between China and the DPRK and view Pyongyang as a "strategic burden" of Beijing, are by and large inaccurate. The fact is that, China remains committed both to maintaining its traditional relationship with the DPRK and strengthening its cooperation with the Republic of Korea.

Indeed, President Xi Jinping's visit to Seoul in July broke the established diplomatic practice of the top Chinese leader visiting the DPRK before the ROK. But, at best, it only indicates the China-DPRK relationship has hit a speed bump, rather than reached a tipping point. Despite Pyongyang's extreme moves such as conducting the nuclear test, Beijing prefers to leave some maneuvering space in the "sanctions" against Pyongyang.

Compared with the US-Japan alliance or the US-ROK ties, the traditional bond between China and the DPRK seems to be weakening. But the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed between Beijing and Pyongyang in 1961 has been automatically renewed twice and will be valid until 2021. The treaty will keep both countries on the same page despite troubles.

Of course, China will continue helping the DPRK if the latter realizes that the nuclear issue is not the only one that matters in China-DPRK ties, the simultaneous development of the domestic economy and nuclear projects will not be tolerated by its neighbors and the international community, and that China is still its most reliable partner.

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