The leadership in Beijing is livid at North Korea’s claims that Pyongyang successfully conducted an “H-bomb” test on Wednesday.
This is the first time Beijing would have not been informed in advance by Pyongyang of its intentions to detonate a nuclear device – and senior officials in Beijing confirm they knew nothing about the test before Pyongyang announced it had conducted one to the world.
*** Indeed, although it has not been reported in the media, China’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned the DPRK ambassador to Beijing to formally protest Pyongyang’s test on Wednesday. ***
*** China will support a response from the UN Security Council imposing “limited” sanctions, but will nevertheless block harsher economic sanctions that could jeopardize the stability of the Kim Jong-Un regime. From what we understand Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will seek to put forth a proposal of their own to the UNSC over the next few days. ***
*** Perhaps most importantly, we have also learned that China’s Environmental Protection Ministry is evaluating the impact of the test and analyzing the radiation data collected along the border and concluded the radiation level is “normal” so far. Evidence suggests the DPRK did conduct a nuclear test, but not an H-bomb explosion, and Chinese scientists are reporting what has been suspected by US experts already that the explosive power of the DPRK’s test is significantly lower than it would be for a typical H-bomb test. ***
Pressuring North Korea
At the meeting with the North Korean Ambassador, China’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang stated that:
- China firmly opposes the latest nuclear test and considers the action to be irresponsible and reckless.
- China is determined to press the DPRK to give up its nuclear weapon project and return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- China will join other members of the U.N. Security Council in imposing limited economic sanctions on the DPRK.
- If the situation were to deteriorate further, the China-DPRK economic projects could be suspended and Chinese companies could be discouraged from conducting business with the DPRK.
Separately, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia discussed the North Korea issue and sharply criticized North Korea’s assertion it had tested a hydrogen bomb as a clear breach of international law that could inflame tensions across the region.
The two sides agreed to support the UN Security Council in imposing “appropriate” economic sanctions on the DPRK. Russia will also join with China to present their solutions to the UN Security Council over the next few days.
But from what we understand, while China will join other members of the U.N. Security Council in calling for “limited” sanctions on the DPRK, China and Russia will not support the UNSC in adopting much tougher economic sanctions on the DPRK and will oppose the US and other UNSC members if they feel economic sanctions go too far.
Chinese sources emphasize that despite President Xi Jinping and most of the leadership in Beijing harboring little love lost for North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, Chinese leaders nevertheless believe a collapse of the Kim regime would bring chaos to its doorstep. China will therefore refrain from taking measures that would go so far as to seriously undermine Kim’s regime.
So China will support a notch up in UN sanctions – it is unclear to us what that means exactly – but will not as of yet reduce its normal trade relations with the DPRK, and for now at least will insist and attempt to keep its economic relations and the nuclear issue on two separate tracks.