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Just what is China’s position on the Korean situation?

At the height of the crisis over North Korea’s planned launch of ICBMs into the seas around Guam, a Chinese newspaper published an editorial entitled “Reckless game over the Korean peninsula runs real risk of war”.  The Global Times is a daily affiliated with the Communist Party of China and so can speak at least semi-officially for the government in Beijing. What it had say on August 10, in the guise of advice to the government, provided an interesting answer to a widely asked question: Just what is China’s position on the Korean situation?

While the full editorial was nine paragraphs long, the operative paragraphs were as follows:

Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.

China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.

China opposes both nuclear proliferation and war in the Korean Peninsula. It will not encourage any side to stir up military conflict, and will firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned. It is hoped that both Washington and Pyongyang can exercise restraint. The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should try to be the absolute dominator of the region.

In brief:

  • China will protect its interests with a “firm hand”.
  • It will resist any change in the status quo “where China’s interests are concerned”.
  • China opposes both nuclear proliferation and war on the Korean peninsula.
  • It can’t dictate to any of the participants, but it wants them to exercise restraint.
  • No side should believe it can be the “absolute dominator” of the region.
  • If North Korea attacks the United States and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral.
  • If the US or South Korea attack North Korea or try to overthrow the Kim regime, “China will prevent them from doing so”.

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