Sea of Blood, Year of Friendship: China-North Korean Relations in 2009

June 12, 2009
Jamestown China Brief


Sea of Blood, Year of Friendship: China-North Korean Relations in 2009

By John J. Tkacik, Jr.

It is apparent that North Korea had been preparing for the May 25 nuclear weapons test since late last year, after the U.S. presidential election and while North Korea's "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il was recuperating from a debilitating stroke he suffered last summer. And it seems that the Chinese leadership was well aware of the internal political dynamics propelling Pyongyang toward a nuclear bomb.

That timeframe is crucial as one considers the news, assigned highly visible territory on page one of the January 24 People's Daily, of the 2009 "Sino-Korean Friendship Year." "Friendship Year" was launched with a personal letter from (in protocol order) "Communist Party General Secretary, State Chairman and Chairman of the Central Military Commission" Hu Jintao to his equally titularly-endowed North Korean comrade Kim Jong Il. The letter was hand-delivered in Pyongyang by Comrade Wang Jiarui, director of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's International Liaison Department and China's most senior point-man on North Korea policy since February 2001.

"I have deputized comrade Wang Jiarui to convey my personal highest regards and best wishes to Secretary Kim Jong Il, and" (the letter continued with typical socialist reverence for priority ranking) "on behalf of the Chinese Party, Government and People, I wish the Korean Party, Government and People a happy new spring." In the most fulsome terms, Hu suggested that in this 60th year of Sino-Korean diplomatic ties – which have "withstood the test of time" and have been "carefully nurtured by the older generation of Chinese and Korean revolutionary leaders" – the two nations join hands to deepen their ties in all areas of endeavor, and invited Kim once again to visit China.

According to the People's Daily, Kim responded with appropriate ebullience and Comrade Wang followed up with what must have been the real message: "China hoped, through strengthened contacts and common efforts, to overcome obstacles and encourage the Six Party Talks in the ceaseless achievement of progress." Given that six straight years of Six Party Talks have resulted in two North Korean nuclear weapons tests and several provocative launches of medium and long range missiles, "ceaseless achievement of progress" was a generous overstatement – unless one looks at the Talks from the perspective of the Chinese and North Koreans.

So, in good humor, Kim responded that he appreciated China's leading role in the Six Party Talks, and affirmed that North Korea would "exert every effort for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Kim, too, wanted to strengthen coordination with China for the success of the talks.

But Wang's visit to Pyongyang jolted the attention of the international news media for another reason. He was the first foreign visitor to be received by the "Dear Leader" since his August 2008 stroke. Presumably, Dear Leader wouldn't have shot himself up with cortisone (his left hand was visibly swollen in photos of the event) for anyone except the personal emissary of the Chinese leader, and Wang's pilgrimage would be a media event that could be tightly stage-managed by both Beijing and Pyongyang.

"Friendship Year" continued into February, when Kim considered the test launch of an ICBM over Japanese airspace, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei – China's top Japan expert -- arrived in Pyongyang with another warm personal letter from the fourth-ranking Politburo chieftain declaring, inter alia, that it was the "unshakable strategic policy of the Chinese party and government to steadily develop the traditional Sino-DPRK relations of friendship." A few days later, another Politburo member, Liu Yandong, reassured a visiting Korean delegation that "Sino-DPRK friendship is the blood-sealed unbreakable friendship as it was provided by the leaders of the two countries." March saw North Korean Premier Kim Yong Il's (no relation to "Dear Leader") "Friendship Year" extravaganza journey to Beijing.

On April 5, North Korea did launch a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile which supposedly lifted a payload the size of a warhead well over Japanese airspace 3,846 kilometers out into the Pacific Ocean toward Hawaii. Three days later, the Chinese foreign ministry said that North Korea had the right to peaceful use of space and refused to condemn the April 5 missile launch. South Korean aerospace analysts said video images of the Taepodong lift-off broadcast from North Korea were convincing evidence that the North Korean rocket was built with Chinese Long-March 1 technology. The missile seems to have been fitted with attitude control thrusters at the second and third stages, advances that would enhance its deployment as a silo-based ballistic missile. China, of course, called on "all parties" to remain calm. Shortly after, despite Chinese misgivings, the United Nations Security Council issued a watered-down "presidential statement" condemning the North Korean action, while the Chinese Foreign Ministry explained (the following day) that to "ensure the overall interests of peace and stability" in Northeast Asia, "China disagrees of a Security Council resolution on the launch, let alone new sanctions against the DPRK." Meaningless U.N. "statements" are okay, but any resolution, especially one with teeth, was not. Moreover, China was still not convinced that the North Korean missile launch violated any U.N. rules – it was a civilian satellite launch, not military, and at least some kind of prior notice was given. Where was the problem?

On April 15, reacting to the UNSC presidential statement, North Korea announced its formal withdrawal from the "Six Party Talks." China continued to call for "calm" from all "relevant parties."

Also in April, according to noted Hong Kong China-watcher Willy Lam, "Dear Leader" was anxious to secure Chinese backing for the succession of his third son, Kim Jong-Un, to the North Korean throne. The Chinese had certainly been aware of young Jong-un's succession since mid-January (which is probably where South Korean intelligence first heard of it). No doubt, it was a Chinese "diplomatic source" who informed the international media on June 3 that "foreign embassies" had been informed of young Kim Jong Un's formal enrollment as successor to the "Dear Leader". Were any embassies, other than the Chinese, so informed?

This is all to be expected in "Sino-Korean Friendship Year." So, don't believe the wishful thinking that Beijing is distancing itself from Pyongyang just because it detonated another nuclear weapon on May 25. After all, it isn't the first time Pyongyang has acted in "brazen" (or, as the Chinese put it, "hanran") contravention of international norms.

This suggests that, to comprehend the not-so-subtlety of Sino-North Korean relations, all one need do is read the Chinese newspapers and resist being guided by well-meaning Chinese interlocutors to little snippets here and there in the Chinese internet.

Sea of Blood

For example, the Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, People's Daily, reported quite lavishly between March 18 and March 23, that North Korean Premier Kim Yong Il was enjoying a fruitful sojourn in Beijing and – at China's invitation -- had brought along with him North Korea's "Sea of Blood Song and Dance Troupe" (Xuehai Gewutuan) – to deepen Sino-Korean friendly cultural exchanges. No irony there.

The "Sea of Blood" performance in Beijing on March 18 marking the opening of "Sino-Korea Friendship Year" must have been a real treat. They sang a "major chorale work" entitled "Dream of the Red Chamber" for a Beijing audience of over 2000 Chinese and Koreans including both China's and North Korea's premiers (the relevance of this will become clear later). According to People's Daily, North Korea's "Dear Leader" rehearsed "Dream of the Red Chamber" with the Sea of Blood troupe just a few days before their departure for Beijing. Kim Jong-il's thoughtful gesture was a delightful reminder of how deeply Kim cherishes this "Sino-Korean Friendship Year" of 2009.

Despite all evidence, however, most American analysts, after a thorough working over by "confidential" Chinese "sources" now convince themselves that Pyongyang has finally pushed Beijing over the line. The "line" being North Korea's second nuclear weapons test on May 25, 2009.

The Washington Post reported that "unusually critical statements and harsh coverage in China's state media" reflect the "anger" of China's leaders. The Wall Street Journal sees China as "More Open to Tougher Restrictions Against Reclusive Regime."

Reuters noted on June 3 that the website of the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang posted, as its top item, the Chinese foreign ministry's criticism of the nuclear test – though, by June 3 Washington D.C. time, the top item on the site was instead a "Sino-Korean Friendship Year" children's art and calligraphy exhibit.

The Financial Times, a bit more circumspect, pointed to evidence of Chinese government exasperation with North Korea contained in a collection of short essays and interviews of Chinese scholars – most critical of the U.S., although some were indeed also uncharacteristically irate at North Korea. But the preponderance of the evidence was in the opposite direction.

In fact, Huanqiu observed that the Chinese policy analysts they interviewed were evenly divided (10 against 10) over whether the "international community" (not necessarily China) should "more tightly sanction" North Korea or "oppose the international community's attempt to do this." However, the more prominent Chinese scholars are inclined to make excuses for North Korea. Zhang Liangui of the CCP Party School sees Pyongyang's quest for a nuclear weapon as driven by internal politics, "they want to establish a strong and powerful nation" in order to deal with the U.S. and a "nuclear weapon is part of their comprehensive strength." PLA Major General Peng Guangqian comments that North Korea has had a "long-term quest" for nuclear weapons to assert North Korea's "international posture" so that it "need not fear" dealing with other countries. Peng also believes that a nuclear weapon could guarantee North Korea's "short- and mid-term security," although not its long-term survivability, a view that suggests China could live with a North Korean nuclear weapon for the short and mid-term.

In the United States, analysts were inclined to conflate these views with what they judged to be unusually tough language from the Chinese foreign ministry (MFA) to the effect that China "resolutely opposes this." Their prediction is that China is now at the breaking point with North Korea. But the "this" in the MFA statement was North Korea's nuclear test – not North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons. And, alas, the PRC Foreign Ministry's language was not unusually tough, in fact, it was even a little milder than it was in October 2006.

American analysts similarly misunderstood China's "anger" at North Korea's October 2006 nuclear weapons test, citing the Chinese foreign ministry's description of the test as a "brazen" (hanran) violation of its international commitments and China's "resolute opposition" -- to the test. Only later, in the memoirs of former American U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, do we discover that Beijing remained stubbornly resistant to any sanction pressure on North Korea after the October 2006 weapons test. Of course, no U.N. sanctions were ever enforced against North Korea, and it doesn't look like China will ever permit enforcement in the future.

The unfortunate fact is that the Chinese-North Korean alliance is as strong as ever in 2009. This 60th anniversary year of Beijing-Pyongyang diplomatic relations has been designated "China-Korea Friendship Year" and on May 27, a Chinese emissary, Song Enlei conveyed the message that "the traditional China-DPRK friendship, which has steadily developed, standing all trials of history, is being further strengthened under the deep care of President Hu Jintao and General Secretary Kim Jong Il."

That China is the only power with clout sufficient to restrain North Korea is universally accepted in the Obama administration. The debate is whether China has any interest at all in using its clout, and if so, whether there is any price that might induce Beijing to inflict pain on Pyongyang.

My own reading of Beijing's relationship with Pyongyang is that (quite unlike the United States) China is not willing to abandon its allies or their interests -- at any price; and that the Sino-North Korean relationship is a core emblem of China's leadership of both the socialist world (such as it is) and the developing world. Hence the propaganda appeal to the memories of the older generation of leaders, Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung, as the foundation for the "Year of Sino-Korean Friendship" – 2009, a year marked by North Korea's withdrawal from the Six Party Talks, its ICBM tests and its nuclear weapons test.

American Illusions, Chinese Realism

Illustrative of the profound conceptual divide between America's and China's relationship with North Korea are two seemingly unconnected events last year, 2008, within three days of each other.

The first took place on the evening of Wednesday, February 27, 2008. Pyongyang was cold and dark, as was the theater box reserved for North Korea's "Dear Leader" in the 2500-seat East Pyongyang Grand Theater where the New York Philharmonic Orchestra prepared for its historic concert. The day before the orchestra arrived in Pyongyang, diplomats whispered to The New York Times, "Yes, this is something big." Diplomats in Beijing had told Times reporters that the North Koreans were “genuinely impressed” that the Philharmonic accepted their invitation in October 2007. One said “The very highest leader is probably following this carefully himself.” But Wednesday night, the New York orchestra played to about 400 stony-faced North Korean spectators, an audience that the Times said "consisted mainly of hotel workers, the staff in the concert hall and at the monuments, people in the grandiose buildings present for official tours and the minders." "Dear Leader" was nowhere to be seen.

By March 2, The New York Times had to admit that the Philharmonic's North Korean adventure had been "a major event in a strangely minor key." It had been disappointingly overblown, like the rest of America's relationship with North Korea. Its substance consisted of wishful thinking on the part of the Americans. Judging from the press coverage, it seems that the Philharmonic had basically invited itself to Pyongyang at the suggestion of a talent agent in California who brokered the deal with the North Korean ministry of culture. In the end, the North Koreans seemed to regard their "invitation" as a favor to the New York mandarins who had struggled so hard to prove the power of cultural exchanges in promoting understanding between peoples.

The second curious event took place three days later, on Saturday, March 1. The notoriously reclusive "Dear Leader," North Korean National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il, paid a call on Mr. Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese Ambassador in Pyongyang, where he received an oral message from Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao, a bouquet of flowers and (reportedly) sat through an embassy banquet and "an art performance specially prepared by artistes of the Liaoning Song and Dance Troupe." It was the third time since 2000 that "Dear Leader" had called on the Chinese Embassy, supposedly to celebrate "jung wol dae barum," (the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar - although the Kim visits never actually coincided with that date).

More intriguing was the fact that "Dear Leader" dragged a very high-powered retinue along with him to the Chinese Embassy – including four top generals, two vice foreign ministers and Korean Workers Party bosses.

And . . . "Dear Leader" was photographed smiling broadly as he shook the hand of Ambassador Liu who, despite Dear Leader's thinning but bouffant pompadour and his elevator shoes, still towered over the diminutive North Korean. All Kim's body language indicated that the Dear Leader was genuinely comfortable in the Chinese embassy – he declared "I'm very glad to come to the Chinese Embassy. I feel as if I were visiting a relatives' house" – and he seemed not the least bit self-conscious.


But here's the mystery: What exactly was the "personal oral message" that Chinese leader Hu Jintao conveyed to his North Korean counterpart that made the North Korean feel as if he "were visiting a relative's house"? Did the message concern the meetings Chinese leaders had with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the previous week? Or did it, as one South Korean commentator suggested, involve China's acquisition of "50-year rights to a North Korean iron, coal, copper, zinc, gold and molybdenum mines; exclusive, 50-year usage rights to Rhajin Port, construction rights to the Tumen River-Chongjin railway"?

Conflicting Signals from Beijing

It is understandably difficult for Americans to put all this in context if they concentrate on what is said to them in English but don't thoroughly absorb the Chinese media. Professor Zhu Feng of Beijing University blogs in English that North Korea's May 25 nuclear weapons test was a "slap in the face" to China's leaders. Yet, to a Chinese audience, he eschews the "slap" metaphor and instead dispassionately explains that North Korea's test is a "well-plotted" step in gaining de facto "nuclear weapons state" status as part of Kim Jong Il's "legacy" in Pyongyang's succession process.

The professor was just one of a large number of experts interviewed by Chinese television and print media to elucidate the North Korean situation to Chinese audiences after the nuclear test, but he was one of the few who filed a blog in English on an influential U.S. foreign policy website. So, the difference in the tone of his two commentaries was striking. The discrepancy reflects precisely the conflicting messages about North Korea that the Chinese leadership has crafted for its separate target audiences.

Ever since the Second World War, the Chinese Communist Party has habitually managed perceptions of its security policies both at home and abroad. Generally, the image the Chinese leadership projects to the domestic audience is a more accurate reflection of its actual policies. But foreign analysts must be especially wary. A careful review of CCP propaganda suggests that one should always watch what the Party leadership "does" more intently than what it "says" – or permits to be said – to foreigners, particularly foreigners from non-socialist, fraternal states.

This rule offers a high degree of accuracy when predicting, say, China's policies toward revolutionary regimes in Iran, Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe, to name a few. Beijing's diplomats and academics have told American counterparts, for example, that China tried to get Burma's junta to ease up on dissent; that China tried to get Sudan's Khartoum regime to ease up on genocide; that China had second thoughts about providing Zimbabwe's Mugabe regime (which inflicted considerable violence on voters in 2008 elections) with heavy weapons and small arms. All proved false. Iran is another case where what China tells foreigners, and what China actually does are quite opposite.

But perhaps in no case is this rule as clearly in focus as in China's relationship with long- time "lips and teeth" ally, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea – especially in light of Professor Zhu Feng's assertion that North Korea had been preparing its nuclear weapons test since last November's presidential election in the United States. Without mentioning North Korean "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il's debilitating stroke, Professor Zhu believes that Kim has been extremely anxious to "speed up domestic power arrangements" and to bequeath his to his successor the legacy of North Korea's "nuclear weapons state" status. It was, Professor Zhu opined, a "minutely planned" process – not a "reactive" one; one that would take advantage of President Obama's "diplomatic adjustment" to gain leverage with an even more "hardline" stance. All perfectly plausible; and suggestive that if Professor Zhu was aware of it, China's intelligence services were even more clued-in.

Lips and Teeth

That Beijing routinely and actively strategizes with Pyongyang on how to manage international alarm over North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions is amply documented. North Korea's top general, Jo Myong-rok, consulted with China's top military leaders in Beijing for five days just a few days before the Beijing-sponsored "Three Party Talks" in April 2003. Less than a week before the first round of "Six Party Talks" in August 2003, General Xu Caihou, director of the PLA's powerful General Political Department, conferred with North Korean counterparts in Pyongyang for four days.

Indeed, China's major focus in five years of "Six Party Talks" (2003-2008) had been to obstruct the United States and Japan from imposing any sanctions at all on the North – regardless of the provocations. After North Korea's highly provocative July 2006 missile tests (witnessed, according to U.S. intelligence, by Iranian observers who had arrived in Pyongyang via Beijing ), China's foreign minister "repeatedly blamed the entire crisis on Japan's aspiration for a permanent seat on the Security Council!"

Over the past six years, North Korea's "brazenness" – as the Chinese might call it – has been enabled by a series of high-level leadership visits (including by Hu Jintao and Kim Jong Il), military exchanges (which seem no longer publicized), grandiloquent praise of North Korea in the People's Daily, and dramatic growth in Chinese exports to North Korea indicating tremendously high levels of economic aid (how else does North Korea pay its bills?). Chinese exports to the North continued to rise through the first quarter of 2009, while South Korean and Japanese trade dropped off.

What possible reason could China have for encouraging North Korea's "nuclear weapons state" status? Perhaps China is seeks some way of convincing the United States to reduce its nuclear arsenal – an explicit goal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Perhaps China calculates it can persuade the United States that new nuclear weapon states, like Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, will not negotiate their arsenals until the U.S. actually implements substantial reductions in its own – ultimately bringing the U.S. arsenal closer in size to the Chinese one. At the same time, China would require the United States to rein in any potential Japanese ambitions for nuclear weapons. In view of China's rapid modernization and growth of both its nuclear weapons and ICBM force, and the Obama Administrations avowed goal of nuclear reductions, this would an eminently sensible diplomatic strategy.

In any event, the past six years of China's diplomatic cover for North Korea are prologue to the 2009 "China-Korea Friendship Year", a year that provides yet new evidence of the ongoing strong patron-client relationship across the Yalu River.



See interview: "Zhu Feng: Chaoxian Tuichu Tingzhan Xieding Yi zai Queli Youhe Guojia Diwei," [Zhu Feng: North Korea's withdrawal from Armistice is to bolster its claim to nuclear weapon state status", Xin Lang Wang, [New Wave Net], May 27, 2009, at
"Hu Jintao Xiang Jin Zhengri Zhi Qinshu Xin" [Hu Jintao Sends Personal Letter to Kim Jong Il], Renmin Ribao, January 24, 2009, p. 1.
"Kim Jong Il receives Chinese party delegation," Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), February 9, 2001, at
In this case, Jia Qinglin. "Senior CPC Official on Importance of Sino-DPRK Relations," KCNA, February 28, at
"Senior Chinese Official on Sino-DPRK Cultural Relations," KCNA, February 27, 2009, at
Craig Covault, "North Korean rocket flew further than earlier thought," Spaceflight Now, April 10, 2009, at
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jiang Yu's Regular Press Conference, April 7, 2009, at
"N.Korean Rocket 'Made Using Chinese Technology,' Chosun Ilbo internet edition, April 9, 2009, at
United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement S/PRST/2009/7, April 13, 2009.
"Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu's Remarks on the Presidential Statement adopted by the Security Council on the DPRK launch," April 14, 2009, at
Michael D. Shear and Colum Lynch,"After Launch, Obama Focuses On Disarmament; N. Korea Complicates President's Trip," The Washington Post, April 6, 2009; p. A01 at
Jack Kim, "DPRK Leader picks 3rd Son as Heir: Media", Reuters, January 15, 2009, citing Yonhap News Agency.
Liu Ge, "Fazhan Wenhua Jiaoliu, Zengjin Zhongchao Youyi" [Develop Cultural Exchanges, Advance Sino-Korean Friendship], Renmin Ribao, March 20, 2009, p. 3 at
Chaoxian Zui Gao Lingdao Ren Jin Zhengri qiangdiao jinyibu gonggu he fazhan Chao Zhong Youyi [North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il Stresses Need to Push Ahead to Consolidate and Develop Korea-Chinese Friendship], Renmin Ribao, March 23, 2009, p. 3, at
"Zhong Chao Youhao Nian" – Zhong Chao Liangguo Shaoer Shuhua Zhan zai Pingrang Kai Mu" [ 'China-Korea Friendship Year – Art Exhibit of calligraphy and paintings by children from China and Korea' Opens in Pyongyang], Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang, June 1, 2009,
"Chaoxian erci heshi jiujing yao chuan shenma xinxi?" Huanqiu Ribao internet edition, May 26, 2009, at (last accessed May 27, 2009, but it is no longer on Huanqiu's China site. It can be accessed through a U.S. Google search of the headline.)
"Duo ming Zhongguo zhiming xuezhe zhichi geng yanlide zhicai Chaoxian," [Several noted Chinese scholars support even tougher sanctions on North Korea], Huanqiu Shibao, May 26, 2009, This is apparently part of the Page One story in the print edition of Huanqiu with the subhead "Six Chinese scholars believe the Six Party Talks have failed, 14 believe not failed."
"Chaoxian yao jiang Hewuhua Jinxing Dao Di?" [Does North Korea really want to all the way to become a nuclear weapon state?] Transcript China Central Television (CCTV) "Jin Ri Guanzhu" [Focus Today] – May 28, 2009, at
Joseph Kahn, "Angry China Is Likely to Toughen Its Stand on Korea," The New York Times, October 10, 2006, at; see also PRC Foreign Ministry Statement, Remnin Ribao, p. 1, October 10, 2006, at and
John Blton, Surrender is Not an Option, Threshold Editions (New York), 2008, pp. 303-313.
"Chinese Figure on 'Year of China-DPRK Friendship'," KCNA, May 27, 2009, at
Daniel J. Wakin, "New York Philharmonic Might Play in North Korea," The New York Times, October 5, 2007, at
"Kim Jong-il Visits Chinese Embassy,", March 3, 2008, at
"Surrendering Korea With a Smile," Chosun Ilbo internet edition, March 7, 2008, at
Zhu Feng, "North Korea Nuclear Test and Cornered China," Asia Security Initiative, MacArthur Foundation, May 27, 2009, at
"Zhu Feng" interview.
For example, see "Chaoxian Erci He Shi Jiujing yao Chuandi Shenma Xinxi" [What Signal is the Second NKorean Nuclear Test really sending?], Huanqiu Ribao web, May 25, 2009 accessed at on May 27, 2009, but is no longer posted. It is still accessible via a Google search of the headline text at Hong Kong Phoenix net
Zhu Feng interview.
John J. Tkacik, Jr. "Getting China to Support a Denuclearized North Korea," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1678, August 25, 2003, at; and John J. Tkacik, Jr., "Does Beijing Approve of North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions?" Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1832 March 15, 2005, at
When asked at Senate Hearings July 20, 2006, if Iranian engineers had witnessed the North Korean launches, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Christopher Hill, replied "Yes, that is my understanding". Perhaps concerned that he had inadvertently revealed classified information, Hill later told foreign reporters "I'm not a position to confirm the specific reports." See Foreign Press Center Briefing, July 21, 2006.
Exclamation in original. Bolton, p. 297
See "N. Korea's Reliance on China Trade Deepens," Chosun Ilbo, February 24, 2009, at - Trade between North Korea and China totaled US$2.78 billion in 2008, up 41.2% from $1.97 billion in 2007. North Korean imports surged 46% to $2.03 billion in 2008, while exports to China increased 29.7 to $750 million. Mineral resources accounted for 54.7% of North Korean exports to China, while machinery and electronic equipment took up the biggest portion of imports.
"China, N. Korea Trade Booming Despite Rocket Tensions," Agence France-Presse, April 6, 2009. See also Choe Sang-hun, "North Korea Perfects Its Diplomatic Game: Brinkmanship," The New York Times, April 3, 3009 at
China does not yet see a nuclear Japan as credible, yet, but it must calculate that a dwindling U.S. capacity for "extended deterrence" may push Japan in that direction. See "Ex-minister seeks Japan nukes discussions," Channel News Asia, April 20, 2009, at
Walter Pincus, "Expert Groups Largely Back Obama's Nuclear Stance –," The Washington Post, May 2, 2009, p. A-01 at Robert Gates, "Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in the 21st Century," Speech by the Secretary of Defense at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 28, 2008.


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