China's Strategic Caution Amid Russia-North Korea Diplomatic Moves, All You Need To Know
China's Strategic Caution Amid Russia-North Korea Diplomatic Moves, All You Need To Know

China adopted a cautious approach this week as Russia and North Korea strengthened their ties and pledged to resist Western influence, with Beijing avoiding any trilateral arrangements that might complicate its relationships with other nations.

On Wednesday, Beijing observed from the sidelines as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shared his "innermost thoughts" with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lin Jian, during a briefing on Tuesday, merely described the summit as a bilateral exchange between Russia and North Korea without further elaboration.

"China has certain reservations regarding North Korea's deepening military cooperation with Russia, which could undermine Beijing's predominant geopolitical influence over Pyongyang," said Tong Zhao of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"China is also cautious not to give the impression of a de facto alliance among Beijing, Moscow, and Pyongyang, as this would complicate China's practical cooperation with key Western countries," Zhao added.

Since North Korea relaxed its pandemic-related border controls last year, trade with China has rebounded, but Kim's political engagements have increasingly involved Russia.

Kim's first and so far only post-pandemic trip was to Russia to meet with Putin last year, and Putin is the first world leader to visit the politically and economically isolated North since the borders reopened.

Russia has also reportedly used North Korean-made ballistic missiles, prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions, to strike targets in Ukraine, according to U.S. and allied officials and U.N. sanctions monitors.

China declared a "no limits" relationship with Russia just days before Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. However, Beijing has refrained from providing military support for the war effort.

While China has joined Russia in blocking new sanctions on North Korea at the Security Council, it abstained when Moscow vetoed the extension of a panel that monitored sanctions enforcement.

A South Korean government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted tension between Beijing and Pyongyang over thousands of North Korean workers who remain in China in violation of U.N. resolutions.

China is North Korea's largest trading partner by a significant margin, and the two countries share a mutual defense treaty dating back to the 1960s, the only such treaty either country has with any nation.

However, Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, pointed out that Kim's engagement with Putin and their unpredictable behavior create new uncertainties for China.

"Until there is a clear development and policy that challenges China's position, I'd say China is willing to sit aside and see how things go," she said.

For China, closer ties between Russia and North Korea divert attention from the United States, which is not necessarily a bad thing for Beijing, Sun added.

"China just needs to be careful not to present it as a trilateral arrangement, which comes with too much risk," she explained.

Despite increasingly frequent clashes with Washington on foreign policy and trade issues, China remains far from the international isolation faced by Russia and North Korea. Last year, the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea were Beijing's largest trade partners.

In a rare move, North Korea publicly criticized China after Chinese Premier Li Qiang discussed North Korea's nuclear weapons with the leaders of South Korea and Japan at a summit in May.

Putin's visit to North Korea coincided with a visit by senior Chinese foreign and defense officials to Seoul on Wednesday.

"During the discussions, our side expressed concern about Russian President Putin's visit to North Korea on the same day, and China expressed hope that exchanges between Russia and North Korea would contribute to peace and stability in the region," South Korea said.

Niklas Swanstrom, Director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Sweden, noted that China would likely become concerned if North Korea's partnership with Russia leads to provocative behavior that further complicates the regional situation for Beijing.

US Lawmakers Meet Dalai Lama in India, Raising Tensions with China

Taiwan Firmly Stands Against Beijing's Objection to India Ties

China Accuses G7 of Perpetuating Western Supremacy, All You Need to Know


Join NewsTrack Whatsapp group
Related News