China has tools to pres­sure Kim

. . . but wor­ries of con­se­quences

Lesotho Times - - International -

BEI­JING — China has the eco­nomic tools to pres­sure North Korea but fears push­ing Kim Jong Un’s gov­ern­ment so hard it col­lapses.

Though China has long been the North’s main trad­ing part­ner and diplo­matic pro­tec­tor, Kim’s nu­clear and mis­sile tests have alien­ated Chi­nese lead­ers, who sup­ported last month’s U.N. sanc­tions that slash North Korean rev­enue by ban­ning sales of coal and iron ore.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and oth­ers have called on China to use its lever­age to do more to halt the North’s nu­clear de­vel­op­ment.

Bei­jing tried to head off the lat­est nu­clear test, con­ducted Sun­day, by warn­ing Py­ongyang that such an event would lead to even more painful penal­ties. Still, Chi­nese lead­ers worry about in­sta­bil­ity on the Korean Penin­sula if Kim’s regime col­lapses, which would elim­i­nate a buf­fer be­tween China and South Korea, a heav­ily armed U.S. ally with Amer­i­can troops on its soil. Some of the op­tions China has used or could and why other op­tions are un­likely:

Trade China al­ready has cut Bei­jing stopped im­port­ing North Korean coal in Fe­bru­ary, de­priv­ing Kim’s gov­ern­ment of its big­gest sin­gle source of rev­enue to pay for im­ports.

Con­trols that take ef­fect Tues­day un­der U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil sanc­tions ap­proved Aug. 4 for­mal­ize the coal ban and bar im­ports of iron and lead ores as well as seafood. North Korean com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in China also have been banned from launch­ing new ven­tures that might gen­er­ate ad­di­tional rev­enue.

Trade it might cut Oil is Bei­jing’s most pow­er­ful po­ten­tial weapon. China ac­counts for 90 per­cent of the North’s sup­plies. Oil ship­ments were sus­pended for three days in 2003 to ex­press Chi­nese anger af­ter a North Korean mis­sile test.

“Cut­ting this flow would likely have an im­me­di­ate and costly im­pact on North Korea’s econ­omy,” said Eura­sia Group in a re­port.

How­ever, such a painful step could rup­ture re­la­tions, wip­ing out any in­flu­ence Bei­jing has over Py­ongyang, ac­cord­ing to My­ong-hyun Go of South Korea’s Asan In­sti­tute.

Bei­jing also has the op­tion of ban­ning im­ports of North Korean-made cloth­ing — the big­gest re­main­ing source of ex­port rev­enue. That would hurt Chi­nese com­pa­nies that are part of that sup­ply chain and a North Korean ex­port in­dus­try that Chi­nese lead­ers are ea­ger to see de- velop as way to make the coun­try more pros­per­ous and sta­ble.

Trade China is un­likely to cut China is the big­gest for­eign food sup­plier to North Korea, which has lim­ited farm­land and re­lies on im­ports to fill the gap. Chi­nese schol­ars say Bei­jing will re­ject pres­sure to cut off food sup­plies for fear of caus­ing wide­spread hunger and pos­si­bly set­ting off a flood of refugees into China’s north­east. The end of Soviet sub­si­dies con­trib­uted to a mas­sive famine blamed for hun­dreds of thou­sands of deaths in the 1990s, bring­ing the econ­omy to the brink of col­lapse. — AP

Trucks cross the friend­ship bridge con­nect­ing china and North korea in the chi­nese bor­der town of Dan­dong on Mon­day.

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