China’s foremost social sciences research institute has commented on the possibility of Beijing abandoning its North Korean ally, a rare occurrence that is attracting attention in South Korea.
In its recent report on the Asia-Pacific region, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences asserts that while North Korea currently represents a Chinese “strategic asset,” Pyongyang should be aware that China could, if necessary, opt for the greater interest represented by regional security, an interest that is periodically threatened by North Korean nuclear tests and similar actions.
However, the report adds that North Korea knows that in the absence of its nuclear capacity it cannot compete with South Korea, while South Korea knows that in the event of conflict it would suffer enormous economic harm. This, it declares, evidences the assertion that conflict on the Korean Peninsula remains “unlikely.”
It goes on to state that the decisive elements on the Korean Peninsula going forward are: North Korea’s political security and economic development; South Korea’s policy on the North; and the roles of the U.S. and China. Though reunification is unlikely in the near term, it predicts that “inter-Korean relations are likely to improve greatly."
Commenting on the report in conversation with Daily NK on the 5th, Lee Tae Hwan of the Sejong Institute’s China Research Center said that China’s decision to mention abandoning North Korea conveys the message to Pyongyang and others that “It won't be easy to defend North Korea forever.” It is a message that deliberately places “psychological pressure on the North,” he added.