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How China Sees North Korea: Three Critical Moments in History and Future Directions

RESEARCH Report by Patricia Kim
Chinese flag, Beijing, China.

Securing Beijing’s cooperation on denuclearizing North Korea requires a clear understanding of Chinese strategic thinking on the Korean Peninsula.

Key Findings

​This paper will provide a brief overview of three critical points in the evolution of China’s policy toward North Korea: the Korean War and the origins of Beijing’s view of North Korea as a buffer state; the second North Korean nuclear crisis of the early 2000s and Beijing’s decision to play an active role in the Six Party Talks; and the present era of Xi Jinping, in which a lively debate has emerged on China’s long-standing prioritization of stability over the denuclearization of North Korea. The paper will conclude with recommendations for how the United States should approach China to obtain its full cooperation on a strategy of maximum pressure and diplomatic engagement to denuclearize North Korea.

About the Author
Patricia Kim
Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations