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Politics & Law

A shift in Chinese strategy on North Korea?


Musudan missiles were displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang last year

Musudan missiles were displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang last year

There seems to have been a shift in Chinese-North Korean relations as the Bank of China has stopped its business with a North Korean bank:

Bank of China Ltd. said it cut off dealings with North Korea’s primary foreign-exchange bank in the first publicly announced move by a Chinese state-owned company to distance itself from Pyongyang and its young leader Kim Jong Eun.

The Obama administration quickly praised Bank of China’s action Tuesday as an important step in attempting to contain North Korea’s growing nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs.

The U.S. has accused the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, which performs many functions of a central bank, of facilitating millions of dollars of transactions on behalf of North Korean arms companies and entities involved in …

Chinese and North Korean relations have been strained ever since the testing of missiles and the rhetoric from North Korean Kim Jong Eun. The recent actions are unique because China rarely punishes its longtime ally, North Korea.

Is this a temporary cooling of relations between China and North Korea, or is this the start of a more hostile policy change? A few months ago, North Korea was threatening the world with all kinds of destruction, but they have since backed down, even moving their nuclear missiles away from their reported test sites:

North Korea has removed two medium-range missiles from a coastal launch site, indicating a lowering of tension on the peninsula, a US official said.

Pyongyang was believed to be preparing for a launch last month, having threatened attacks in the region.

The threats followed tough new UN sanctions imposed on North Korea in March after its third nuclear test.

North Korea has been angered by wide-ranging annual US-South Korea military drills, which ended a week ago.

The news that the missiles had been removed from the site on the east coast came on the eve of a summit in Washington between the US and South Korean presidents.

Park Geun-hye held talks with Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Alongside the South Korean leader, Mr Obama said at the White House that North Korea would no longer be allowed to raise tensions to wrangle concessions.

“The days when North Korea could create a crisis and elicit concessions, those days are over,” Mr Obama said.

Ms Park, who took office in February, will also address the US Congress on Wednesday.

‘Provocation pause’

The Musudan missiles had been ready to launch at any moment but North Korea had now “moved them”, a unnamed US defence official told AFP news agency.

A report from South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed senior government source, backed that up, saying Pyongyang appeared to have lifted its highest combat alert and moved the missiles, although their current location was not confirmed.

The move is the most tangible sign yet that North Korea has stepped back from its threats to launch missiles, the BBC’s Jane Little in Washington reports.

But a senior US official from the National Security Council warned that, given the North’s unpredictable behaviour, it was “premature to celebrate it as good news”.

Pentagon spokesman George Little, who declined to comment directly on the missiles’ reported removal, told reporters “what we have seen recently is a provocation pause”.

“And we think that’s obviously beneficial to efforts to ensure we have peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

China bank move

Meanwhile, the Beijing-based Bank of China said it was halting transactions from North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank.

The US imposed sanctions on North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank after the recent nuclear tests and had urged other countries, including China, to cut ties with the bank.

The Bank of China made the announcement in a statement but did not provide further details.

This is the first time that a Chinese entity has made a move against North Korean interests following the recent tension, according to reports.

North Korea unveiled medium-range Musudan missiles during a military parade in 2010 but had not yet tested them.

Last month, South Korea raised its alert level to “vital threat” amid indications that Pyongyang was preparing for a launch.

At least one ballistic missile with an estimated 3,000km (2,000-mile) range had been fuelled and ready for launch, according to US and South Korean sources.

A test launch would be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, passed in 2006, which states the North “must not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile”.

Pyongyang had issued a series of threats in apparent response to the expanded UN sanctions and the US-South Korea drills – which saw nuclear-capable B2 and B52 bombers flown over the Korean peninsula.

These included warnings of attacks on Japan, South Korea and US military bases in the region, and a pledge to restart a mothballed nuclear reactor that produced plutonium for its weapons programme.

In addition, it shut down an emergency military hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang, and later withdrew some 53,000 workers in April from the Kaesong factory zone on the border with South Korea.

The industrial complex, which was launched in 2003, employed people from both countries and was seen as one of the last remaining symbols of inter-Korean co-operation.

The final South Korean workers left the factory last week – the first time they have done so since the zone began operating 10 years ago.

However the tone of the rhetoric from North Korea has softened somewhat in recent days, observers say.

These stories make it appear that President Xi and his administration are prepared to move in another direction in their relations with North Korea. Time will tell.

Source: Wall Street Journal – China Publicly Cuts Off North Korean Bank
Source: BBC – N Korea ‘removes’ missiles from east coast launch site
 
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Discussion

5 thoughts on “A shift in Chinese strategy on North Korea?

  1. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

    Like

    Posted by OyiaBrown | May 14, 2013, 5:40 pm
  2. Reblogged this on CHINDIA ALERT: You'll be living in their world, very soon and commented:
    Wonder if North Korea is finally getting the message, that if it does not change its ways, its only friend, China, will be forced to abandon it.

    Like

    Posted by keeper @ chindia-alert | May 14, 2013, 8:19 pm

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