The China–North Korea Relationship
China is North Korea’s most important trading partner and main source of food and energy. It has helped sustain Kim Jong-un’s regime, and has historically opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea in the hope of avoiding regime collapse and a refugee influx across their 870-mile border.
Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and ongoing missile launches have complicated its relationship with Beijing, which has continued to advocate for the resumption of the Six Party Talks, the multilateral framework aimed at denuclearizing North Korea.
A purge of top North Korean officials since its young leader came to power and the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s exiled half- brother, in Malaysia also spurred concern from China about the stability and direction of North Korean leadership. Yet China’s policies have done little to deter its neighbor’s nuclear ambitions.
China’s support for North Korea dates back to the Korean War (1950–1953), when its troops flooded the Korean Peninsula to aid its northern ally. Since the war, China has lent political and economic backing to North Korea’s leaders: Kim Il-sung (estimated 1948–1994), Kim Jong-il (roughly 1994–2011), and Kim Jong-un (2011–). But strains in the relationship began to surface when Pyongyang tested a nuclear weapon in October 2006 and Beijing supported UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which imposed sanctions on Pyongyang. Read More
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