China And North Korea: Friends Or Foe?

China a.k.a. the People’s Republic of China is known as the Red Dragon of Asia. Meanwhile, North Korea is officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Although different in many ways, both countries actually have a striking similarity: the long list of human rights abuse issues plaguing the country and government from then until now. People’s rights are curtailed and there is little the outside world knows about what’s really going in within their respective nations although life in China has changed significantly now.

While China opened its doors and finally joined the international community, North Korea remains a mystery to everyone. With issues of abuse and poverty among North Koreans, the government under the leadership of Kim Jong-un is flawed in a lot of ways and remains to be shrouded in secrecy. Kim Jong-un is both the supreme leader of the DPRK and the chairman of the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) among many others.

China-North Korea relations are bilateral and both countries have important embassies in both countries. While they have close diplomatic relations before and share a 1,416-kilometer long border, China and North Korea conflicts have been growing over recent years and are mainly because of China’s growing concern over the nuclear weapons program of North Korea and the number of Chinese fishing boats the latter have impounded. Even ordinary Chinese people don’t see North Koreans in a positive light.

China’s top Korean War historian provided an unexpected take on the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula and China’s relationship with North and South Korea.

“We must see clearly that China and North Korea are no longer brothers in arms,” Shen Zhihua said recently in a shocking speech, the New York Times reports. “The fundamental interests of China and North Korea are at odds.”

The Trump administration has been pushing China to pressure its unruly neighbor, and while China has made some concessions, Beijing is still pushing back. China does not “hold the crux and the key to resolving” the North Korea issue, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters Monday. Beijing has restricted coal imports from the North, cutting off a key source of revenue for the regime, but bilateral trade between China and North Korea appears to be on the rise.


In this world, governments have allies and enemies. Although there is no permanent friend or foe in politics, the rich history shared by China and North Korea is one of the few things that link both countries together until the present.

North Korea is in the headlines – again. For a small, poor country of 25 million people, it sure does make a lot of news. This time it’s the perennial issue of nuclear testing. North Korea has tested five nuclear devices since 2006. Donald Trump is in no mood to allow a sixth.

Just days before his Florida summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump vowedthat “if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.” Then, just after the summit, he backed up his pledge by ordered an aircraft carrier strike group to the region.

Most people agree that North Korea is a problem. Aside from its nuclear tests, it also stands accused of state-sponsored counterfeiting of foreign currencies, the industrial-scale manufacture and sale of illicit drugs, and even of assassinating its own citizens in foreign countries.

But why is North Korea China‘s problem in particular? China is North Korea’s only major diplomatic ally, but the relationship is fraught with difficulties. How did China get saddled with such a troublesome partner? The history of the relationship runs much deeper than most people realise.


While the entire world thinks that China and North Korea are BFFs for life, their relationship isn’t carved in stone. Their relationship isn’t particularly rosy nowadays and China struggles to maintain balance and weigh in on its next steps – whether to continue support for its long-time ally or finally put an end to decades of friendship for obvious reasons.

China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States.

A day after North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister said Pyongyang would test missiles weekly and use nuclear weapons if threatened, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “gravely concerned” about North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile activities.

In the same press conference, spokesman Lu Kang praised recent US statements on the North Korean issue.

“American officials did make some positive and constructive remarks… such as using whatever peaceful means possible to resolve the (Korean) Peninsula nuclear issue. This represents a general direction that we believe is correct and should be adhered to,” Lu said.


Now is a crucial time to find out just how deep China and North Korea relations are. While North Korea remains to be antisocial and a war-freak nation, always making threats of nuclear war with other countries, China has slowly become a global superpower that likewise has to maintain diplomatic relations with various countries all over the world, not just to North Korea alone.

It may be unlikely that North Korea will have a change of heart and start opening up to the world soon but we will likely witness a severing of ties between China and North Korea if the latter continues with its unorthodox and unethical ways. The government itself is the problem and the citizens of North Korea don’t enjoy any form of democracy whatsoever. And this treatment alone is something that does not sit well with the entire world. Whether China and North Korea remains to be friends in this changing world or new enemies is just looming on the horizon.

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