China's Rise and Cataclysmic Changes on the Korean Peninsular

Author Name OOE Shinobu  (Edogawa University / The Yomiuri Shimbun)
Creation Date/NO. January 2011 11-J-006
Research Project The Rise of China and the Transformation of the East Asian Regional Order
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For a certain period following the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea after the end of the Cold War, relations between China and North Korea deteriorated enormously. Amid escalating tensions due to North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, President Kim Il-Sung died suddenly. Sensing an impeding crisis due to North Korea's destabilized regime, China began providing North Korea with aid, and this marked a move aimed at restoring the China-North Korean relationship. Following the installation of Kim Il-Sung's successor, Kim Jong-Il, as General Secretary, the China-North Korea relationship was completely restored with visits by each country's leaders to the other.

Against the background of the restoration of the China-North Korea relationship and expansion of China's economy, the economic relationship between the two countries took on an expansive tone. Following Kim Jong-Il's visit to China in 2000, China's aid policy toward North Korea also changed from "emergency transfusion" unilateral aid to "restorative" aid encouraging independence. It is in this context, also, that investment of Chinese capital in North Korea is now expanding on an unprecedented scale.

While North Korea's dependence on China is deepening, the country has not relaxed its sense of caution against Chinese-style "reform/opening-up policies" that could shake the Kim Jong-Il regime. In addition to its primary aim of challenging the military superpower of the United States, North Korea's development of nuclear weapons has begun to also function as a means of keeping China in check as the "market economy superpower" has come to hold North Korea's fate in its hands.