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You searched for: Content Type Working Paper Remove constraint Content Type: Working Paper Publishing Institution Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University Remove constraint Publishing Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University Political Geography China Remove constraint Political Geography: China Topic Regional Cooperation Remove constraint Topic: Regional Cooperation
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  • Author: Scott Snyder, Bonnie Glaser, John Park
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Beijing viewed North Korea's explosion of a nuclear device in October 2006 as not only an act of defiance to the international community and a threat to regional stability, but also an act of defiance toward China. Chinese officials admit that their toolbox for managing the North Korean nuclear weapons challenge must now include a combination of pressure and inducements. Three considerations underpin Beijing's aid policy toward North Korea: 1) protecting China's military-strategic environment; 2) maintaining security and stability along the Sino-DPRK border; and 3) sustaining economic development and political stability in the three Chinese northeastern provinces that border North Korea. There are intense debates among Chinese analysts over: 1) whether North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons; 2) the strategic value of the DPRK to China; 3) whether the Sino-DPRK treaty should be revised, abandoned, retained and its ambiguity stressed to enhance deterrence; and 4) the likelihood of a rapid improvement in U.S.-DPRK relations and how such a development would affect Chinese interests. Chinese analysts are generally less concerned with North Korea's immediate economic prospects than they were last year, reporting severe but stable conditions. Inflation has subsided and market mechanisms have largely replaced government rations as the primary means for securing a livelihood. In contrast to last year, when Chinese analysts were consumed by the seeming zero-sum choice between stability and reform facing the North Korean leadership, North Korea's slightly improved economic situation seems to have allayed the immediacy of Chinese concerns about North Korea's economic stability. Chinese experts report no fundamental change in North Korea's economic policies following the 2002 reforms. Chinese analysts provide conflicting assessments of whether government attempts to prohibit selling of grain in markets are succeeding and the extent to which the grain rationing system is working. Chinese DPRK specialists are encouraged that the DPRK has haltingly adopted some agricultural and market reforms and allowed greater autonomy to individual factories and enterprises. But they acknowledge that North Korea has not yet allowed farmers to act independently of their work teams, a step China took as early as the late 1970s that raised productivity sharply. Chinese analysts anticipate that reforms will continue as long as they do not threaten central government control. Chinese analysts widely assert that the North Korean system remains stable and they are confident that it will remain so for at least several years absent the sudden death of Kim Jong Il or external interference aimed at destabilizing the regime. In the long run, however, sustainable development through economic reform remains an essential prerequisite for stability, and North Korea's ability to move down that path is not yet assured. There are numerous indicators that the Chinese examine to assess stability trends in North Korea. These indicators are grouped in the following manner: 1) factionalism in the regime and potential challenges to Kim Jong Il's leadership; 2) political controls and ideological education; 3) influences from the outside; 4) the general public's loyalty to the Kim family; 5) crimes and illicit activities; 6) the economy, food supply, and economic reform; and 7) Kim Jong Il's health and the leadership succession. Chinese analysts see few signs of immediate instability in any of these areas at present, but they worry that the potential for instability may grow. In the event of instability in North Korea, China's priority will be to prevent refugees from flooding across the border. If deemed necessary, PLA troops would be dispatched into North Korea. China's strong preference is to receive formal authorization and coordinate closely with the United Nations (UN) in such an endeavor. However, if the international community did not react in a timely manner as internal order in North Korea deteriorated rapidly, China would seek to take the initiative in restoring stability. Contingency plans are in place for the PLA to perform at least three possible missions in the DPRK: 1) humanitarian missions such as assisting refugees or providing help after a natural disaster; 2) peacekeeping or “order keeping” missions such as serving as civil police; and 3) “environmental control” missions to clean up nuclear contamination resulting from a strike on North Korean nuclear facilities near the Sino-DPRK border and secure “loose nukes” and fissile material. There is apparent new willingness among Chinese institute analysts and PLA researchers to discuss the warning signs of instability in North Korea and how China might respond if the situation gets out of control and threatens Chinese security. Some Chinese experts say explicitly that they favor holding a discussion on stability in North Korea in official channels with the United States, including possible joint responses in support of common objectives such as securing nuclear weapons and fissile material. Other analysts maintain that such discussions are premature.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Regional Cooperation, United Nations
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Beijing, Asia, South Korea, North Korea