China’s Dilemmas over Stalled North Korean Denuclearization Talks – Carnegie-Tsinghua Center – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

As North Korea continues to stall talks with the United States and South Korea, there is a greater need for China to play a more assertive role to help break the impasse. However, Beijing’s efforts to promote sanction relief for Pyongyang when it is unclear what North Korea will do about its nuclear programs make people wonder about Chinese objectives. This essay first analyzes Chinese views about North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization, and then discusses the main perceived interests that may inform Chinese deliberations of goals and approaches to denuclearization talks. The growing great power competition between Washington and Beijing has complicated potential Chinese calculations and presents a tension between pursuing long-term nonproliferation goals and near-term geopolitical interests. Despite the competing pressures behind China’s policy, the essay offers steps that Beijing can take to bridge its near-term and long-term policy gap, help move forward the deadlocked denuclearization talks, and work with other players to preemptively defuse a looming crisis as North Korea resumes provocative behavior.
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