In Brief

China stands firm on North Korea

The US is calling for action, but does Beijing have the power to influence Pyongyang?

Kim Jong-un

Although China has expressed frustration about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and has supported UN Security Council sanctions on its traditional ally, "the two nations' close relationship has raised concerns for the US", says Newsweek.

Beijing has been accused of not fully enforcing sanctions on its neighbour and has resisted some tougher measures.

Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said this week that the US was prepared to impose sanctions on Chinese firms suspected of maintaining ties to North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear weapon programme.

"We continue to urge China to exert its unique leverage as North Korea's largest trading partner, including by fully implementing all the UN Security Council sanctions," she said.

Refugee crisis

Beijing says it does not have any influence and "recent actions by the North suggest that may be the case", says the Daily Telegraph.

"If North Korea really does have respect for the concerns of President Xi [Jinping], would it have tested its military hardware on the opening day of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing?" 

The high-profile forum showcased Xi's ambitious plans for a new Silk Road, but the initiative was overshadowed by the launch of a North Korean ballistic missile.

China's more pressing concern is that North Korea might collapse if sanctions are enforced, pushing millions of refugees into north-eastern Chinese provinces.

Richard N Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says: "Chinese leaders have no love for Kim Jong-un's regime or its nuclear weapons, but [they dislike] even more the prospect of North Korea's collapse and the unification of the Korean Peninsula with Seoul as the capital."

Costly assumptions

An editorial this week in the Global Times newspaper, which has strong links to Beijing, cautioned Donald Trump about assuming China holds the key with regards to North Korea.

It said the US President risked being tricked by opponents into applying pressure on Beijing, adding: "The conflicting parties on the Korean Peninsula are North Korea and the US-South Korea alliance.

"China's forces have long withdrawn from the peninsula."

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