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Panel Discusses the Relationship of China and North Korea

By Sean F. Stewart, Contributing Writer

John S. Park, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and Senior Program Officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace, discussed China’s economic engagement with North Korea last night at a lecture in CGIS-South.

Stabilizing North Korea is a fundamental goal for the Chinese as they seek continued economic growth, according to Park.

By supporting the North Korean regime—and promoting development within the nation—China gains greater access to resources. Thus, China—which still considers itself a developing nation, according to Park—has grown increasingly close with North Korea over the past decade in the pursuit of greater economic and political power.

But the nation’s relationship with North Korea also poses what Park called a “perennial headache” for China.

China established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1992, a move which North Korea proclaimed “The Great Betrayal.”

The following decade, Park noted, saw hostility between the nations. At the same time, Park explained, North Korea’s loss of a key trading partner led it to divert greater resources toward nuclear development.

Tension between the nations eased when China expressed willingness to develop resource exchanges with North Korea, Park said.

In discussing the implications of this relationship for the United States, Park noted that China enjoys peaceable relations with North Korea, even while the U.S. imposes sanctions on the nation for its nuclear program.

While the Chinese do not support North Korean provocation of the South, they instead take what Park called a “Please Remain Calm” attitude toward all parties.

The event was co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies China and the Korea Institute.

The Fairbank Center focuses on research and study concerning East Asia, in particular China, including Taiwan.

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Harvard Kennedy School