While North Korea was celebrating an alleged Hydrogen nuclear bomb test, government officials from neighboring countries were on alert and denounced North Korea. Chinese spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was aggressive in denouncing the test by stating, “China strongly opposes this act….. China will firmly push for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” (The New York Times 1/6/2016)

Over the years, the East Asian political sphere has changed as South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping increased economic and diplomatic cooperation. (The Washington Times 6/27/2013) During this time, the new North Korean leader Kim Jung-un was busy consolidating his own domestic power base while making insignificant progress on improving North Korea-China relations.

While it is unlikely that China would endorse any drastic additional sanctions against North Korea, China made no effort to hide its dissatisfaction over North Korea’s belligerent action. If North Korea does not provide a satisfying diplomatic response to China’s anger, China would likely reevaluate its “special” relationship with the communist North Korea. If North Korea loses China’s support, Kim Jung-un’s regime would be virtually isolated from the international community.

The main reason why China is angered by the alleged test is due to North Korea’s main motive: publicity. Given the close proximity to Kim Jung-un’s birthday as well as the Kaesong Industrial Complex being open (limited) for South Korean workers (Sputnik News 1/8/2016), the test itself was not to threaten South Korea but to legitimize the rule of Kim Jung-un domestically and internationally. Unfortunately for North Korea, China’s top priority in East Asia is stability, which North Korea seems to disregard.

While there might not be immediate consequences for North Korea, it is expected that North Korea will lose more political support from China. Perhaps 2016 might be the year when China patience with North Korea runs out.


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