On the sidelines of last week’s nuclear summit, China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama sat down to discuss many issues pertinent to US-China relations.
Paramount among these issues was North Korea and its recent missile and hydrogen bomb tests.
Xi and Obama declared that their respective countries were fully committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agreed that they have a “responsibility to work together” to ensure North Korea is unable to further develop its nuclear program.
This agreement resulted in China backing the UN sanctions imposed on North Korea in early March by implementing trade restrictions of its own. With this new set of sanctions, China has banned imports of gold and other rare earths, such as vanadium and titanium, as well as exports of jet fuel and other oil products.
There remain exceptions to these sanctions for imports and exports that are vital for the “people’s well being” and basic humanitarian needs.
The newly implemented sanctions are alleged to be the most hard-hitting and effective yet, as China is North Korea’s largest and most important trading partner.
While the effectiveness of sanctions is debatable, the Chinese sanctions are significant as they display China’s escalating discontent with the Kim Jong Un regime.
Analysts contend that North Korea has made significant strides in its nuclear program and it is possible the reclusive country has indeed been successful in developing nuclear capabilities. The reality of a nuclear North Korea is too much for China to stomach as this would have implications on not only regional security, but China’s own national security. Thus, China has realized the importance of preventing North Korea’s nuclear program in coming to fruition.
Moreover, the extent to which China is able to influence North Korea’s actions has been waning. President Xi Jinping and his cabinet have repeatedly called for North Korea to employ restraint in its international dealings which has been largely ignored by the Kim regime. This is a troubling development for China and one that is compounded by the threat of North Korea’s potential nuclear capabilities.
China and the US have rarely seen eye to eye when it comes to dealing with the reclusive North Korean regime. Thus, agreement in how to handle the most recent developments on the peninsula is a considerable step forward in aligning US-Chinese interests and tactics in the region.
The recent congruity in dealing with North Korea is also indicative of China’s increasing compliance with international norms and further integration into the international community.
China has experienced unprecedented economic growth which has had vast implications on the country’s place in the world. It has often been a rocky road for western powers in reconciling China’s new found influence, however, as the newly imposed Chinese sanctions reflect, China is continually integrating and its influence and cooperation have become vital in dealing with global threats and developments.
Indeed, China’s recent backing of UN sanctions reflects a progressive shift in China’s approach to both North Korea and its interactions with the major world powers.