By Robert H. Kim
Professor Emeritus, Western Washington University
In spite of repeated warnings and sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations, North Korea carried out its fifth nuclear test. It has been 10 years since North Korea did its first nuclear test, and it has continued to test nuclear capabilities in order to improve its ability to threaten the international community of nations around the world. The latest test with 20 kilotons of TNT was certainly the largest of the five, and it demonstrated North Korea’s steady and continuing policy of increasing destructive power of nuclear forces. North Korea even sent its foreign minister Ri Yong-ho to the United Nations General Assembly and he had the gall to threaten the United States with his nation’s nuclear forces.
In the face of North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests over the last decade, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has maintained its diplomatic relations without any restraining measures. When North Korea notified the PRC on its first nuclear test that was carried out on Oct. 9, 2006, President Hu Jintao should have taken an active and responsible role in stopping the test. After the test, he sent his Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing to Pyongyang to protest against the test, but it failed to stop the second test on May 25, 2009. A third test came on Feb. 12, 2013. After the third test, the North Korean ambassador to Beijing was called in to hear the PRC’s strong protest, but that did not stop North Korea’s fourth test with 7-10 kiloton yields that came on Jan. 6, 2016. The latest test with 20-30 kiloton yields came on Sept. 9, 2016.
After each nuclear test North Korea carried out over the last 10 years, the PRC did protest against North Korea’s policy of steadily increasing its nuclear explosive power, but it has not done anything to stop North Korea from continuing its bomb tests. One can conclude from the PRC’s unwillingness to put effective restraints on North Korea that the PRC is neither willing to stop North Korea nor surreptitiously encouraging the Pyongyang regime to continue its policy. All the PRC has to do to stop North Korea from pursuing its nuclear tests is to stop its oil supply completely, and prevent its corporations from sending their materials to North Korea for nuclear tests. The PRC has not discontinued its supply of oil to North Korea, probably because it wants North Korea to continue its nuclear forces and threaten the United States, because North Korea is the only country that is capable of doing so without consequences, for it has very little to lose.