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A Study on the Relationship between China’s Security Perspectives and North Korea’s Security Policies

A Study on the Relationship between China’s Security Perspectives and North Korea’s Security Policies
Kim Youen
Issue Date
2019. 8
ABSTRACT A Study on the Relationship between China’s Security Perspectives and North Korea’s Security Policies YAO QIAN Department of Korean Studies Graduate School of International Studies Hanyang University China is the only existing state maintaining an intimate relationship with the isolated North Korea, and there is no controversy in saying that Beijing is still one of the most influential regimes for Pyongyang in the international community. In the Cold War era, Beijing successively saw the United States and the Soviet Union as its security threat. Naturally, therefore, North Korea was regarded as the most suitable partner for Beijing to ally with. China supplied all-around support to Pyongyang in the Mao Zedong era. Moreover, Beijing maintained a military presence there until 1958, due to their participation in the Korean War, as well as a vast amount of weaponry and economy. The fraternal relationship between China and North Korea was challenged by the emergence of Deng Xiaoping‘s reformist leadership, beginning in 1978, because of their economic differences. In spite of this, high-level exchange visits of Sino-DPRK officials were maintained during Deng‘s era. Moreover, economic and trade cooperation between them were also strengthened in the wake of the conclusion of a series of commercial agreements. Overall, the Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping administrations effectively persuaded North Korea to stay in an alliance security ix framework with China. The end of Cold War era signified a significant disturbance for North Korea, trapped in the dilemma of diplomatic isolation. In these respects, North Korea perceived nuclear weapon capabilities as a vital defensive reaction to an increasingly hostile external environment. Nevertheless, North Korea‘s nuclear ambition severely deteriorates the regional security environment, which then violates China‘s demand for stability for its economic development. During North Korea‘s first nuclear crisis, the Jiang Zemin‘s administration adopted a passive and low-profile role in mediating between the US and North Korea. Beijing did not directly get involved in the issue and its attempts of influence on Pyongyang were described as ―keeping a low profile‖ (韬光养晦) as per their diplomatic guidelines. In the second crisis, the Hu Jintao administration successfully persuaded Pyongyang to join the Six Party Talks so as to seek solutions to the nuclear issue. In the whole process of the Six Party Talks, Beijing adopted the approach of ―carrots and sticks‖ to induce and press Pyongyang towards peaceful dialogue and to persuade it to accept the Six Party Talks as the most suitable and appropriate approach for solving the security problem. The limitations of China‘s influence on North Korea were not fully acknowledged until 2009 when Pyongyang declared its withdrawal from the Six Party Talks. Until today, North Korea has still not returned to the Six Party Talks in spite of the Xi Jinping administration‘s consecutive sanctions. China‘s influence on North Korea‘s security policy has been cardinally dependent on China‘s security perspective. China‘s traditional security perspective was demonstrated by a realist perspective and was developed under the background of the Cold War era. It led x Beijing to ally with Pyongyang to balance both superpowers‘ expanding influence. China‘s new security perspective, however, could be illustrated as a combination of both realist and liberalist perspectives and has taken shape under the background of the post-Cold War. The new international situation requires Beijing to cooperate rather than seek antagonism. Successive Chinese administrations have regarded the liberalist-oriented approach as the first choice to guarantee national security. And hence Beijing has insisted on dealing with North Korea‘s nuclear issue through peaceful dialogue. This is despite Beijing‘s influence on Pyongyang having become rather more limited following ineffective management in the second nuclear crisis. In the Cold War era, China and North Korea had shared the same national goal in terms of national security, and therefore these China‘s security perspective had not only generally coincided in the security policy with North Korea, but also Beijing had maintained an effective influence on Pyongyang. However, in the post-Cold War era, the two states have no longer shared the same national goal. Therefore, China‘s effective influence on North Korea has hinged on an interplay between degrees of China‘s influence intention and North Korea‘s refusal intention. Pyongyang‘s withdrawal from the Six Party Talks attributed to that the degree of Beijing‘s influence intention was weaker than Pyongyang‘s refusal intention. This study conducts a historical examination of the relationship between China's security perspectives and North Korea's security policies during the Cold War and after it. This is carried out by analyzing their reciprocal behaviors under the framework of a virtual alliance treaty in the Cold War era as well as vis-à-vis the North Korea nuclear issue in the post-Cold War era. Meanwhile, an appraisal section regarding the changing trend of China's security xi perspectives and the effects of China's security perspectives on North Korea's security policies are arranged.
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