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All bilateral relationships are embedded within a wider context, but nowhere is this context more important than in the North Korea China relationship. For North Korea (the DPRK), China has been a bulwark against the United States, and in earlier periods, a counterbalance to the Soviet Union. However, North Korea has always been wary of becoming too dependent on China and one reason, though obviously not the major one, for its desire to establish normal and even friendly, relations with the United States, and Japan, is to offset Chinese influence. For China also, the United States is the main focus of attention and the relationship with North Korea is important not so much in itself, but for its impact on China’s relationship with the US and to a lesser extent with Japan (the fear that the nuclearisation of the DPRK will facilitate the remilitarisation and nuclearisation of Japan) and with South Korea. Although diplomatic relations between Beijing and Seoul have only been established for 15 years, there has been explosive growth in the economic relationship, with positive repercussions in political, sporting and cultural (eg Hallyu) linkages. China is inevitably embroiled in, and is perhaps the underlying target of, the US offensive against North Korea, and the Banco Delta Asia affair provides an illuminating example of that. The Six Party Talks framework provides a convenient way of analysing this context because not merely does it bring together the major ancillary players to the bilateral Beijing-Pyongyang relationship but its institutional existence is the prime expression of the dynamic interaction between the constituent members.


CAPS Working Paper Series No.184 (Jun 07)

Recommended Citation

Beal, T. (2007). The North Korea-China relationship : context and dynamics (CAPS Working Paper Series No.184). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: