Video: 'At the End of the Day, China Has North Korea's Back'

Despite tension between Beijing and Pyongyang, China’s interest in preventing an unstable or collapsing North Korea has led it to act as a “hole in the sanctions system” and indirectly support the isolated government. So said Evans J.R. Revere, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, at a panel discussion on security in Northeast Asia, held February 25 at Asia Society New York and moderated by author and Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Barbara Demick.

Revere pointed to how Chinese front companies have enabled North Korea to acquire sensitive materials, while the Chinese government has chosen not to seriously monitor North Korean planes flying through Chinese airspace.

Notwithstanding these Chinese efforts to prop up North Korea, Hitoshi Tanaka, chairman of the Institute for International Strategy at the Japan Research Institute, noted that the collapse of the regime is “more likely than before” due to shakiness in the power structure and Kim Jong-un’s impulsive decision making.

“People hope for something called a ‘soft landing’ in [North] Korea,” added Victor Cha, Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, referring to a gradual economic and political opening. “I don’t think that is going to happen. Change has never come to the Korean peninsula slowly. It has always been dramatic change.”

In the video clip above, Revere and Cha discuss China’s relationship with North Korea, the instability of Kim Jong-un’s regime, and how North Korea’s precarious situation is affecting security in Northeast Asia.

About the Author

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Carrita Thomas is a Policy Program intern with the Global Initiatives Department. She just returned from seven months in India, and is an international business and management student at Dickinson College.