Longtime readers will be familiar with our line that when North Korea misbehaves, China loses. Beijing often finds itself with few attractive options as Pyongyang gets more restive. Reuters explains in a very helpful piece of analysis:
China is in a bind over what to do about North Korea’s stepped-up nuclear and missile tests, even though it is annoyed with its ally and has started talks with other U.N. Security Council members on a new sanctions resolution against Pyongyang.
China shares a long land border with North Korea and is seen as the only country with real power to bring about change in the isolated and belligerent nation. However, Beijing fears strengthening sanctions could lead to collapse in North Korea, and it also believes the United States and its ally South Korea share responsibility for growing tensions in the region.
China is in a difficult spot, a source close to the Chinese leadership told Reuters when asked if Beijing’s attitude to North Korea had changed after its fifth nuclear test last week.
It’s a helpful backgrounder on China’s thinking and options. You should read the whole thing.