While intense international sanctions on North Korea are being endorsed in regards to the North Korean nuclear issue, the international situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula is flowing subtly. China, which had previously supported the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 to impose sanctions on North Korea is now showing signs of improved relations with the country in the wake of a visit from Ri Su-yong, the vice chairman of the North Korea Workers' Party Central Committee. On the other hand, the United States is more firmly cracking down on North Korea with new sanctions, designating it a primary money laundering concern. Despite China’s softened stance on North Korea, however, the two countries’ disagreement on the North Korean nuclear issue has not been resolved. During a talk with Vice Chairman Ri, Xi Jinping, the leader of China’s Communist Party, has expressed that China wants to maintain a friendly and cooperative relationship with North Korea, but strongly adhere to rules when it comes to nuclear weapons. Although he didn’t openly discuss denuclearization, he did bring up the three principles of denuclearization of the Korea Peninsula. Vice Chairman Ri emphasized to President Xi that North Korea will continue to adhere to its nuclear and economic policies.
China’s attitude of appeasement toward North Korea may be to combat the United States’ strategies that target the overall public. Vice Chairman Ri's visit to China may also be interpreted as a retaliation to President Barack Obama's visit to Japan and Vietnam. The fact that Ri’s meeting with President Xi lasted merely 20 minutes shows the symbolic aspect of this discussion. Conversely, the United States’ designation of North Korea as a money laundering concern on the same day that Ri and Xi met can be seen as a warning to China. At the same time, it shows that the U.S. and China are taking individual actions without consulting each other. As two nations that vie for supremacy in Asia, the U.S. and China are not being wise in driving the North Korean nuclear issue into a conflict between themselves. Now is a critical time for both countries to stand on the same side. It’s concerning that the two powers are taking opposing actions, the United States tightening the noose around North Korea’s neck and China loosening it.
China and North Korea’s appeasing attitudes are especially meaningful in that it can open up a discussion between the two nations on the nuclear issue. South Korea and the United States are concerned that it could hinder their progress with the sanctions, but they need to look at this in a more positive light. If North Korea is trying to move away from international isolation with China’s help, we should actively join in. The United States and China are going to hold a strategic dialogue in Beijing six days from now. We should hope that opening up a dialogue between top level officials from North Korea and China has set the stage for the United States and China to find a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue.