Despite much international pressure to the contrary, North Korea launched a long-range missile this past Sunday. Though perhaps not particularly successful (wasn't it? I'm not so sure...) the launch has managed to stir some excitement (and not the good kind) among the international community, and has likewise lead many an analyst to raise an eyebrow or two over China's rather blasé response (the Chinese merely stated that they "took notice" of the launch, with no further commentary. As per usual, Danwei does a great job summarizing the Chinese headlines on the event).
To be perfectly honest, I don't see what all the huff and puff is about as far as the Chinese response is concerned. Does anyone really expect the Chinese to come forward and condemn North Korea for its actions? China is North Korea's most important ally, main source of food, fuel and arms, and its biggest trade partner. Trade between the two nations has been growing rapidly in recent years which, as the WSJ's China Journal observes:
is funded through credit from Beijing, which fears an influx of North Korean refugees if economic conditions in the isolated, poverty-ridden state worsen.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Chinese were quick to block any formal U.N. condemnation of the launch, and are not about to make any pronouncements of their own. Moreover, I hesitate to agree with analyses that posit this recent fiasco as evidence of China's waning clout over the regime in Pyongyang. I'd rather be inclined to believe that the Chinese have by now learned the delicate balance between exerting pressure and keeping their lips sealed when it comes to their comrades to the North. It would appear they've opted to pursue the latter strategy this time around.
[Image: YaleGlobal Online]