Parents of teenage children often get tired of the “drama” their children routinely drop on them. (I speak from experience here). Could it be that China is growing tired of its tiresomely “dramatic” stepchild, North Korea? Bloomberg reports that maybe they are:
China has the ability to cripple North Korea by cutting off shipments of food, fuel, and luxury goods that Kim Jong Il doles out to loyalists. Kim’s nuclear detonation may put that leverage in play and test its impact on the leadership.
China is increasingly frustrated by North Korea’s defiance of United Nations resolutions designed to curb its atomic and missile programs and is worried that a nuclear-armed government in Pyongyang could spark a new arms race in Asia, analysts and a person familiar with the Obama administration’s policy said.
Until now, China has rebuffed U.S. and Japanese calls for tougher economic penalties against North Korean leader Kim, agreeing only on narrow UN sanctions aimed at regime-run companies and arms imports.
“China may be reaching a point of understanding that Kim is going too far,” said Dennis Wilder, a former Asia director for the White House National Security Council.
Should the Chinese leadership shift against North Korea, it isn’t clear what levers would be used or whether economic clout would translate into political influence over a regime in a possible succession battle, according to the person familiar with administration policy and experts on China and North Korea.
At least part of this is coming out – per the above quote – from the Obama administration. Frankly, I have no idea how much is spin and or wishful thinking. But absent cooperation from China on reigning in Pyongyang, there is not a lot the US can do here. Soft power only works in a best-case scenario where the wielder of the power actually has some, you know, clout over the wieldee, so to speak.
Or maybe China fears the awesome power of a Crabitat boycott!
Hey, it could happen. In a parallel universe. Twice removed.