During a news conference on March eighth meant to address growing tensions between its neighboring countries, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, announced that China has drawn a ‘red line’ on North Korea. In his statement, he specifically said: “The Korean peninsula is right on China’s doorstep. We have a red line, that is, we will not allow war or instability on the Korean Peninsula.”
Adding to his comments regarding that red line, Wang Yi added that denuclearization would be the only way to bring out and maintain a lasting peace. Since 2003, there have been intermittent talks between six nations (Japan, China, The United States, North Korea, South Korea and Russia) aimed at halting and ultimately dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program via multilateral efforts. Although there have been six total rounds of these talks over the past eleven years, there has been no success. In fact, after North Korea declared the Six-Party talks as being dead in 2008, it has defiantly continued to develop its nuclear program, regardless of already having imposed sanctions from the United Nations for failing to give up that nuclear program. In his statement, Yi called for the talks to resume so that efforts may continue to find some way of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. However China’s current attitude toward North Korea has also been without such hopefulness. It has had its patience tested numerous times over the last few years with North Korea’s continued saber rattling and missile testing. The most recent of such tests happened on Tuesday, March fourth and took place while there was a Chinese passenger plane flying in the area (the plane passed through the missile’s trajectory seven minutes after the missile was launched).
Wang Yi’s statements come amid a time when both China and North Korea have been in the international limelight: China has been angering its neighbors over territorial disputes while North Korea has been accused by the United Nations as having committed and continuing to commit atrocious human rights violations against its own people. The panel responsible for the report that brought about the accusations has recommended that the Security Council (in which China is one of five permanent members) refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court. China has deemed the United Nations’ report and subsequent accusations as “unreasonable criticism” but has not explicitly said whether or not it will use its veto power to counter any attempt at bringing North Korea to the International Criminal Court.
China is continuing to grow rapidly as a country and super power, especially economically and militarily. As its growth continues and its geopolitical influence becomes more powerful, there is no doubt that its international relations will be tested. Right now, one such test is maintaining its influence over North Korea and preventing it from becoming even more of a rogue state which appears to be an ongoing challenge with no clear road map or end in sight. Nonetheless, as Wang Yi said regarding international efforts to cajole North Korea: “confrontation can only bring tension, and war can only cause disaster…Some dialogue is better than none, and better early than later.”
By Taylor Schlacter