China is refusing to use it's leverage with North Korea to make the rogue regime back down. Virtually all aid to North Korea flows from China, but they say they will not use aid as a weapon.
For a country that is North Korea's stalwart diplomatic protector and economic lifeline, providing the North with trade, lots of aid and all of its oil, China seemingly has little pull with its neighbor and ally of 55 years.
"China sends oil, grain and other assistance to North Korea. But aid isn't a weapon if it's not used as a weapon," said Zhang Liangui, a North Korea watcher at China's Central Party School, a training academy for the communist elite. "And China doesn't contemplate using aid as a weapon, so its influence is very poor."
As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill returns to the region Friday and another furious round of regional diplomacy unfolds, pressure is building on China to keep North Korea from destabilizing a region vital to the interests of the United States and its allies.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Wednesday urged China "to use that leverage, to apply it and encourage a change of behavior in the North Korean regime."
As the article points out, China and Russia have been teaming up and aligning with nations that are at odds with the United States. This time, it is China alone that has the ability to cause Kim to back down. They appear to be balking completely, though.
Which, of course, puts their whole ultimate objective in doubt.
Behind Beijing's reluctance is a hard-nosed calculation of Chinese interests. Though relations between the Korean War allies have been strained for decades, China feels less threatened by North Korea's behavior than Tokyo and Washington do.
Beijing prefers a weak and unpredictable North Korea to the likely alternatives: an implosion that would send North Koreans streaming into China or a unified Korea under aallied to the U.S.
Still, Pyongyang's actions put Beijing in a bind between those interests and a pressing need to allay concerns in the U.S. and elsewhere about how an economically strong and rising China will use its new power.
"This is an important test of Chinese diplomacy and whether Beijing is ready to play a responsible role even when its comrade in arms makes bad choices," said Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington.
This, even more than China's position on Iran, will clarify where they really stand. If China hurts it's US trade with it's policies, they may endanger their hard-won economic growth.