East Asia

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 163–178 | Cite as

Pseudo Change: China’s Strategic Calculations and Policy Toward North Korea after Pyongyang’s 4th Nuclear Test

  • Jih-Un KimEmail author


After North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January 2016, China’s response was stern enough for certain China analysts to posit that the Middle Kingdom’s approach to its Cold War ally was changing. In reality, however, China’s imports from North Korea, especially coal, a crucial mineral for the North’s income but banned by United Nations (UN) Resolution 2270, did not decrease. Politically, China also strived to maintain mutual relations with North Korea. Based on its strategic and other cost-benefit calculations, Beijing needs to maintain economic and political ties with Pyongyang and thus has no incentive to seriously observe the U.N. resolution. In this context, China is expected to virtually repeat the gestures it made in the past in dealing with the North. Under these circumstances, sanctioning North Korea through China is not considered a viable option in tackling the nuclear issue; rather, the USA and South Korea should change their policy approach toward this problem.


China North Korea Nuclear test U.N. sanctions Strategic cost and benefit 



Research for this study was financially supported by Chungnam National University.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science and DiplomacyChungnam National UniversityDaejeonRepublic of Korea

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