US Pressures North Korea — Please Don’t Drag China In

Recently, Sony Pictures Co. moved forward with filming an absurd comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un, despite the protests of the North Korean government. However, when it came time for the movie to be released, hackers hit Sony, causing it to halt the release of the movie to the public. This situation is not over and continues to develop.

Afterward, the FBI made a public announcement, formally accusing North Korea of launching these hacking attacks against Sony; however, they didn’t release any evidence. On the same day, a spokesperson for the North Korea foreign affairs bureau denied any involvement and recommended that the U.S. work with North Korea to open a joint investigation. According to an article by The New York Times on Dec. 21, a high-ranking official in the Obama administration said that on the day before, Dec. 20, the U.S. had approached China for cooperation in inhibiting the North Korean ability to launch Internet cyberattacks.

While this ordeal has nothing to do with China, if the aforementioned events are true, then, China has nonetheless been brought into this matter. We should not discuss the logic of making a movie that features the killing of a leader of state of another country, nor should we discuss the reasonability of these hackers’ attacks. The author only wishes to discuss here America’s posture and attitude during this situation with regard to the United States, China and North Korean triangular relationship. Every time America runs into some kind of particular trouble with North Korea, regardless if the situation merits it or not, America always requests China to apply pressure on North Korea. If China doesn’t comply with the U.S. request, then, the U.S. labels China an enabler or defender of North Korea.

China and North Korea are two independent, sovereign nation-states and are thus equal. China always abides by five principles in foreign affairs: Regardless if a country is large or small, China respects sovereignty and doesn’t interfere in internal affairs. Although there is a traditional and special friendship between China and North Korea, North Korea doesn’t heed China’s every call. Perhaps, it’s the case that America’s knowledge about the Sino-North Korean relationship, in particular its influence on China or on North Korea, is a bit misguided. America should understand that having China assist with resolving North Korean-U.S. disputes is not logical. Of course, when conflicts between the U.S. and North Korea affect the region’s security and stability, it is relevant to China’s core interests, but that is another matter.

Whenever a conflict happens between the U.S. and North Korea, the U.S. asks China for assistance, or for China to pressure North Korea. Again they are looking for China to apply pressure, but if the U.S. continues to do this, without any other sort of mechanism, it will cause a breakdown in the Sino-North Korean relationship. During the Cold War, the geopolitical alignments of Northeast Asia were the China-Soviet-North Korean “Northern Triangle” against the “Southern Triangle” of the United States, Japan and South Korea. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the international system of the Cold War, the Northern Triangle ceased to exist. However, the Southern Triangle continues to exist, and has even somewhat strengthened. In the 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the Sino-North Korean relationship has seen its ups and downs, but it continues to be a beneficial two-way relationship and helps maintain the delicate balance on the Korean Peninsula. If America successfully poisons or wrecks the Sino-North Korean relationship, this balance will be broken and cause chaos on the peninsula. The U.S. will be the benefactor in this situation — hopefully it does not have these intentions, however.

Currently, there is one piece of news that is optimistic: America is preparing to give up its long-held hostile policies toward Cuba. The two sides are becoming more amicable and are going to re-establish diplomatic relations. America once put Cuba, along with Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea, on a “blacklist” of terrorist-supporting countries. In particular Cuba and North Korea belonged to a list of Socialist countries, and as such, maintained a strong relationship. If the U.S. can allow for Cuba to get off these lists, then, it’s possible a way may also be available for North Korea.

The author hopes that the U.S. can alter its mindset toward North Korea to the one it has toward Cuba now and treat it fairly. As the example with Cuba shows, sanctions and isolation are not good measures to solve problems. With regards to the North Korea problem, America should take responsibility to open dialogue and contact the North Koreans to gradually resolve their differences. Bringing North Korea into the international community as a responsible member would be a policy that can solve these problems. Exactly how the U.S. intends to act, well, we shall wait and see.

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