Is China Anxious About Increasing Russia-North Korea Bonhomie? Here's What US Believes

Ujjwal Shrotryia

Jun 26, 2024, 06:23 PM | Updated 07:27 PM IST

Russia and North Korea signed a mutual defence pact when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang.
Russia and North Korea signed a mutual defence pact when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang.

China is getting increasingly anxious about the strengthening North Korea-Russia bonhomie, hinted US President Joe Biden's Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

Campbell was talking in a discussion at the Council of Foreign Relations. He said that “it is fair to say that China is somewhat anxious about what’s going on between Russia and North Korea.”

He recounted that in several of the interactions between Chinese and US officials, a sort of unease or tension can be seen among Chinese officials regarding Russia's increasing closeness with North Korea.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited North Korea where he signed a mutual defence pact with Pyongyang

Although the text of the defence pact has not been made public, the treaty is supposed to have a provision for mutual defence if either country is attacked.

North Korea and Russia are increasingly getting close, especially since the start of the hostilities in Ukraine. It is reported that North Korea is providing large quantities of artillery shells to Russia, and in return, Russia is assisting North Korea in developing long-range missiles.

Campbell further added that "China is probably worried that North Korea will be somehow encouraged to take provocative steps that could lead to a crisis in Northeast Asia."

According to China expert, Bonny Lin, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, who supports this assertion said, although China is supporting Russia in the Ukraine war, it is still uncomfortable with Russia getting too close to North Korea since it recognises that Russia's plans for the Korean Peninsula are not similar to its own.

“China is put in a somewhat difficult spot, because it does recognise longer term that Russia’s ambition for the Korean peninsula is quite different from its own,” Lin said.

Lin added that Russia is comfortable in dealing with a more unstable Korean Peninsula (read North Korea going nuclear), which, according to Lin, Beijing is more wary of.

And this is reflected in China's position in the recently concluded China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit, where it downplayed the role of the need for complete denuclearisation, which is starkly different from its statements four years ago.

This is coming at a time when the Philippines and China are seeing increasing tensions in the South China Sea, where Chinese ships just days ago rammed Philippines coast guard vessel and disrupted supply missions to an artificially sunk Second World War ship, BRP Sierra Madre, at the Second Thomas Shoal, an internationally recognised Philippines territory.

With the Chinese putting more pressure on Manila and the coming together of the Russia-North Korea-China axis, even with some uneasiness from the Chinese side, various countries in Northeast Asia, including Philippines, South Korea, Japan and others are increasing their military budgets to counter this threat.

Staff Writer at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.

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