AMU Asia Intelligence

China and the Korean Crisis

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By William Tucker
r1794193968.jpgAs of this writing China has still refused to lay blame on North Korea for the attack on the South Korean ship CheonAn in spite of the reported findings from the South Korean investigation. Currently, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is in South Korea for a three day visit and has only made non-committal statements regarding the incident. Any crisis on the Korean peninsula causes problems for Beijing, which is unless China instigated the crisis. It doesn’t appear that Beijing had any foreknowledge of the sinking of the CheonAn, but China can use the crisis for its own benefit.


The U.S. has been pressuring China over the last year to make changes to Beijing’s fixed exchange rate among other economic issues. Because China is having difficulties fixing imbalances in its domestic economic situation they will be hard pressed to move away from the planned programs to maintain social stability. What this means is China may be using its position in the crisis to get the U.S. to back off. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on the world to support harsh punishment against the North Korean regime in response to the CheonAn attack, but without China’s support at the U.N. Security Council it is unlikely that any sanctions, or other measures for that matter, will pass.
China is well aware that the U.S. has been struggling to find a coherent path forward in the foreign policy arena and needs Beijing’s support for action against North Korea and Iranian sanctions. The Chinese position, at least thus far, will hinge on how the U.S. approaches it economic and military approach toward China. Recently the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue conference came to an end with the U.S. giving some ground on its recent demands, but whether this will be enough to secure Chinese cooperation on several foreign policy issues remains to be seen.
Photo: North Korean military leaders – Reuters

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