North Korea Nuclear programSo-called ‘rightists’ view North Korea’s nuclear program as a threat to China’s security. Not only does it strengthen alliances between the US, Japan and South Korea, they say, it ramps up the risk of nuclear proliferation. Zhu Feng 朱锋, a prolific commentator on North Korea at Nanjing University, argues Pyongyang’s crazy provocations could be catastrophic for Northeast Asia. THAAD, he argues, is a direct result of the North Korean deadlock; Deng Yuwen 邓聿文 independent pundit and former deputy editor of Party journal Study Times, warns Japan too may deploy it. South Korea and Japan may even receive US go-ahead to nuclearise, says Yin Zhuo 尹 卓 PLA Navy Research Centre senior fellow.

Chinese at home need to be more aware of the risks, argues Jia Qingguo, including nuclear accidents, North Korea selling nuclear technology to terrorist organisations or even reactivation of the Changbaishan volcano. China could itself become a victim of nuclear blackmail, adds Deng Yuwen. The possibility of Trump launching military strikes if current efforts fail is underestimated, warns Cao Shigong 曹世功 Korean peninsular expert. Cao argues the nuclear issue should not be confused with the wider relationship, and still believes in North Korea’s value as a buffer. Most ‘rightists’ do not: Jia says that given the nature of modern warfare the strategic buffer is a thing of the past.

Conceding much has already been done, these ‘rightists’ argue for more pressure on Pyongyang Talks are not enough to contain North Korea, says Zhu Feng; Beijing must act decisively. Its current ‘dual suspension’ proposal does not change the status quo, thus benefitting North Korea, asserts Wang Peng 王鹏 Charhar Institute. Legal scholar Tong Zhiwei 童之伟 proposes revoking the Friendship Treaty with North Korea. Recognising North Korea as a nuclear state is a dead end, insists Cao Shigong.

Shen Zhihua 沈志华, a widely respected historian of the Korean War, made headlines in early 2017 when he called China’s alliance with North Korea ‘inherently contradictory’, rejected the official ‘three nos’ policy and suggested Beijing support peaceful reunification. Similarly critical voices have become far more mainstream recently, and this development paved the way for Jia’s suggestion to hold contingency planning talks.

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