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Will N. Korea’s missile launch prompt China to toughen sanctions?

Will N. Korea’s missile launch prompt China to toughen sanctions?

Posted November. 30, 2017 08:23,   

Updated November. 30, 2017 09:23


North Korea’s launch of a new inter-continental ballistic missile on Wednesday was another slap on the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was humiliated by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent refusal to meet with his special envoy. North Korea also cast cold water on the Communist Party of China in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting, which was intended to boast the launch of Xi’s second term in power.


Therefore, some analysts expect China to significantly strengthen its sanctions on the North. There has already been rising anxiety in the North Korea-China border areas over how Xi would put pressures on the North following his special envoy’s empty-handed return from Pyongyang.

Attention is being drawn to whether Beijing will step up its own sanctions on Pyongyang. Much attention is being paid to the planned 10-day closure from December 11 of the China-North Korea Friendship Bridge linking the Chinese border city of Dandong and North Korea’s Sinuiju for repair. According to sources in Dandong, there are speculations that China will permanently close the bridge. The bridge is responsible for 70 percent of border trade between North Korea and China. Its complete closure would mean Beijing’s drastic restriction of cross-border trade with Pyongyang, a move that could have a greater impact than an oil supply cut to the North. There are also rumors circulating in Dandong that China will extradite North Korean traders except for ordinary workers and restaurant employees.

However, it remains unclear whether Beijing has made a final decision. “The speculations seem to have come out during the process of Beijing’s review of various sanctions measures after (Kim Jong Un’s) refusal to meet with the Chinese special envoy,” a source on North Korea said. The prevailing view is that China will take measures to drastically cut its trade with North Korea in any form.

The Chinese government is officially emphasizing self-restraints from escalating tensions. Some observers say that as Beijing does not consider the North Korean missile launches aimed at China, it will not likely impose the level of sanctions anticipated by the international community. Still, a well-informed diplomatic source said that Kim Jong Un’s refusal to meet with Xi’s envoy was a “self-mate” that has marred the Chinese leader’s call for new international relations. “China will squeeze North Korea’s throat in invisible ways in addition to the United Nations Security Council sanctions,” the source said.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com