Facing growing international pressure to intervene as the nation almost solely responsible for North Korea’s survival, China has decreed the rogue nation’s containment a “U.S. obligation,” protesting that ‘The U.S. should not always try to outsource its problems to China.”
This according to a Chinese politician described as a “senior lawmaker,” Fu Ying, in China’s state-run Global Times on Monday, who protested that “The key to solving concerns over North Korea security lies in the Americans’ hands.” Beijing is becoming increasingly vocal against potential American activity to protect its ally South Korea from Kim Jong-un’s communist regime, particularly in light of the potential deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea. Seoul seeks this elevated missile defense technology to protect from rockets flying over the border, citing Pyongyang’s recent satellite launch as evidence that North Korea is seeking to improve its rocket technology. While there is no evidence that the satellite North Korea placed into orbit is working, the launch succeeded in testing the rocket used to send it into space, which can be easily weaponized and shot towards an enemy nation.
“The deployment of the THAAD system by the United States… goes far beyond the defense needs of the Korean Peninsula and the coverage would mean it will reach deep into the Asian continent,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said this week, discouraging the United States from accepting South Korea’s demand. Chinese state-run media outlet Xinhua claims the THAAD system “emits super-strong radio waves being harmful to human bodies and paralyzing airplanes and electronic devices,” and that it will not protect from rudimentary North Korean rockets, allegedly unable to reach the heights at which THAAD operates.
American officials cited the potential of something like a THAAD weapons system becoming a matter of contention for China before South Korea requested this aid. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated in January that the United States was looking to enhance defense against North Korea. “We will… have to take additional steps in order to use the leverage we have in order to defend ourselves and our allies if North Korea doesn’t change its behavior,” he said then, adding that these steps “won’t be directed at China, but China probably won’t like them.” Blinken has insisted China “show leadership” against North Korea in the past.
In addition to citing the consideration of a THAAD system in South Korea as a sign of ill will on the part of the United States, lawmaker Fu protested that a lack of a formal end to hostilities between North Korea and America after the Cold War is to blame for Kim’s erratic behavior. “North Korea and the U.S. still have not made peace, they’ve been in an extended cease-fire… You need to think how to bring an end to the war and enter a more normal relationship,” she said this week. Fu insisted that “The Chinese public is also angry about the DPRK nuclear issue but they’re even more angry about THAAD.”
There are clear signs the Chinese government is attempting to redirect anger on the part of the Chinese public towards North Korea towards America, a more traditional enemy for the communist government in Beijing. “A growing number of Chinese, both elites and the general public, deem North Korea is China’s burden and an annoying neighbor instead of an old friend,” the Global Times reports this week, claiming that more than 60 percent of Chinese people want to see Beijing retaliate against North Korea for its recent satellite launch and nuclear weapon test.
The Chinese government reacted sternly to the January nuclear weapon test, which North Korea insisted was a hydrogen bomb, contrary to most Western nuclear energy experts. Beijing summoned its North Korean ambassador over the test, later expressing “serious concern” over reports that the nation might attempt a satellite launch before said launch actually occurred. The Chinese government announced its future support for UN sanctions on North Korea, but rejected any unilateral efforts.
“Clearly there is more that they can do,” a U.S. official told Reuters of China’s dealings with North Korea. China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner, one of very few and considered the nation’s economic lifeline. China has not limited its trading with the country, citing opposition to unilateral sanctions.