Will China intervene in North Korea?

April 15, 2017

If China intervenes in North Korea, it would not to be to save Kim Jong-un.

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 vowed that “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 realize.