BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

North Korea "embarrasses" China, says expert

Now Reading:

North Korea "embarrasses" China, says expert

Text size Aa Aa

In the past, North Korea could have expected some level of support from China. To gauge Beijing’s reaction to this latest incident, we are joined by the author and expert on Chinese affairs, Robert Lawrence Kuhn.

Nial O’Reilly, euronews:
Mr Kuhn, China has a very complex relationship with North Korea, how are we to decipher its response to these dramatic developments?

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:
This is not good news for China. The last thing they want is conflict on the Korean peninsula. There are so many problems that they have, with the economic crisis, with the change of leadership coming. They want stability and that’s not what they have. But why then do the leaders support North Korea in such a significant way? In the last several months, two of China’s senior leaders have been in North Korea giving support to the regime. So why is this the case? People in the West are baffled. I talked to many of my senior Chinese friends privately and they have very different opinions. The most important thing is to keep stability. What can happen if China does not support North Korea? The regime can collapse. If the regime collapses you have five to ten million people crossing over the border into China on the one hand. On the other hand, you may have a unification with the south, which will be a terrible embarrassment for China as well as creating a powerful and historic rival right next door to China on the border. In addition, there is a second issue and that is a sense of extreme nationalism that is a minority of the people, not so much the senior leaders, but there is pressure in the country not to go soft on things that are good for America.

euronews:
So is this a key moment for China’s foreign affairs?

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:
You know, I don’t think this is particularly different from many other incidents that have happened. The North Korean regime is obviously using this as a bargaining chip to try to get additional concessions for aid, whether from China or from other countries, to prop up its regime. China knows, senior leaders have told me that they cannot control North Korea. We in the West assume that the Chinese have absolute control over North Korea. That is categorically untrue, they are trying to do whatever they can to keep the regime from doing crazy things like what happened today. How can this be good for China? Stock markets drop, economic problems occur, all of which impacts China. As one senior diplomat told me, “It’s like you have a friend who is acting very badly. You condemn the behaviour, but he is still your friend.”

euronews:
And I suppose Washington will be watching very closely for Beijing’s response?

Robert Lawrence Kuhn:
In a sense this is good for Washington because it puts Beijing in a corner. It is so outrageous what the North Koreans are doing and the Chinese who have become a responsible nation with a greater understanding of world politics are simply embarrassed.