Key point: North Korea has created a lot of problems for China.
Amid all of the talk of military action on the Korean Peninsula, one major power is often left out of the discussion: China. The People’s Republic of China shares an 880 mile long border with its notoriously unpredictable neighbor, has a large army and values stable borders at any cost. In the event it deems military action necessary, what are Beijing’s options for dealing with North Korea and what kind of force could it bring to bear?
North Korea is both a blessing and a curse for China. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is an independent state that is openly hostile to the United States and other regional powers. Pyongyang’s military is a deterrent to attack without posing a direct threat to China. As a result, nearly a thousand miles of China’s borders are occupied by a regime that finances its own defense and will never fall willingly within the U.S. sphere of influence.
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The situation is far from perfect. While North Korea has traditionally been a Chinese client state, ties between the two countries have deteriorated in recent years. Pyongyang’s fiery anti-American rhetoric and nuclear weapons program have provoked the United States, making North Korea a major point of contention between Washington and Beijing. The country’s flagrant violation of international norms have tested Beijing’s patience.