The relationship between China and North Korea surely ranks as one of worlds strangest. While on the surface, it might not seem surprising to have a formal military alliance between two communist neighbors that has endured more than 4 decades. In many ways Pyongyang has become a Cold War relic, strategic liability, and monumental headache for Beijing. Nevertheless, the China-North Korea alliance remains formally in effect, and Beijing continues to provide vital supplies of food and fuel to the brutal and repressive Pyongyang regime. Since the ongoing nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, which emerged in October 2002, the United States and other countries have pinned high hopes on Chinese efforts to moderate and reason with North Korea. Beijings initiative to bring Pyongyang to the table in the so-called Six-Party Talks and host them seems to substantiate these hopes. Yet, as Dr. Andrew Scobell points out in this monograph, it would be unrealistic to raise ones expectations over what China might accomplish vis--vis North Korea. Beijing plays a useful and important role on the Korean Peninsula, but in the final analysis, Scobell argues that there are significant limitations on Chinas influence both in terms of what actions Beijing would be prepared to take and what impact this pressure can have. If this analysis is correct, then North Korea is unlikely to mend its ways anytime soon. This document is a current analysis of the long-term relationship and its effect on the United States and the region.
U.S. Army War College, http://www.carlisle.army.mil
SSI Newsletter (March 2004)