For China, attitudes toward North Korea may be changing

Generally speaking, China has been North Korea’s stalwart ally since the Korean War, when Beijing sent hundreds of thousands of troops in defense of the country.

But there are recent indications that attitudes within China towards North Korea could be changing, in large part due to ramped up tensions on the peninsula tied to Pyongyang’s incessant drive to develop nuclear weapons.

“In China, the North Korean issue is a sensitive topic. However, as tensions rise on the Korean peninsula, the space for Chinese experts to express their opinion critical towards Pyongyang has gradually widened, suggesting a shift of thinking on North Korea within the Chinese government. A speech by the prominent historian Shen Zhihua at Dalian University in March this year drew much attention in Western media for criticizing the Chinese government policy toward North Korea and calling China’s long-standing ally a “latent enemy.” Remarkably, the speech has not been censored and still can be accessed on the website of the East China Normal University.

“Similarly, a recent published interview with a prominent professor of the Peking University, Jia Qingguo, during the Seoul Defense Dialogue 2017 has sparked another wide debate beyond the Chinese academic community on how to deal with the North Korean issue.

“Jia argued that now might be the time for China to start talks with the concerned countries, especially the United States, on how to coordinate military actions, in case the North Korea crisis escalates into war. With the worsening situation on the Korean Peninsula, he stresses the urgent need to be prepared in order to prevent unnecessary conflicts or even confrontations among the involved parties due to miscalculations and misinformation. Moreover, other important issues need to be addressed, such as who should secure the loose nuclear weapons and how to restore order on the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible.” [source]

Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 2:  What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints?

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Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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