China doesn't have any patience for North Korea's bloviating anymore, and it seems the DPRK may be falling out of favor with its biggest ally — just in time for President Obama's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Reuters reported Tuesday morning that China recently asked Choe Ryong Hae, that visiting North Korean "diplomat" whose trip to Beijing had been so clouded in talks of propagandized half-peace, to halt all nuclear tests in order to calm still simmering tensions in the Korean peninsula, only to have the official balk at the Chinese request. Which isn't good for the Americans, or China — or North Korea, for that matter.
If anyone could get Kim Jong-un and his military to relax, it should be China. The world super power is Pyongyang's economic benefactor: no one donates more aid to North Korea, or participates in more trade, and the DPRK's economy isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And the metting late last month was not the first sign China had been losing patience with its petulant neighbor: In April, President Xi said he would not allow "trouble making on China's doorstep," without specifying Kim and Co., but still.
The new distance between China and the North was something that surprised American officials in Beijing ahead of Obama's major diplomatic summit with Xi in California on Friday. "The Chinese... are not urging all sides to resume talks until the North Koreans agree that the objective is removing all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula," The New York Times's David Sanger and Mark Landler reported over the weekend. "They're much more open to causing pain to North Korea," one of Obama's former China advisors, Jeffrey A. Bader, told the Times team. And the word in Chinese newspapers is along the same lines. The state-supporting Global Times reports China will no longer "indulge" North Korea's nuclear posturing. "The former administration always put ensuring the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula in first place, while the current administration sets the denuclearization of the peninsula first," a Chinese official told the paper. In another move signaling the turbulent state of the Chinese-Korean relationship, the Bank of China also recently cut all transactions with North Korea's primary foreign-exchange bank.
But North Korea has no interest in giving up its nuclear weapons, despite the obvious economic benefits that such a move would set off. "[North] Korea has not mellowed," said the Reuters source with knowledge of the talks with Choe (right), which had initially led to reports about "peace and stability" that had come under scrutiny by Korea watchers. It appears, depending on how much propaganda you believe these days, that Pyongyang will continue wanting to team up with the world's biggest villains, doing evil things like reportedly sending troops to aid Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. And Kim's nuclear threats — however veiled — are likely to continue unabated, at least until North Korea runs out of money and the government has to come back begging the Chinese for a little cash flow. It's not like the Kaesong industrial complex, which North Korea shut down, will re-open any time soon.