By Mike Bastin.

North Korea’s very recent rocket launch has of course provoked international condemnation and outrage, despite the fact that the rocket appears to have failed spectacularly. In fact, the failed launch is perhaps most remarkable for the unusually candid manner in which the North Korean media have reported the incident. Reports from North Korean TV involve a full, lucid account of the launch then almost immediate crash of the rocket

International concern is all the more heightened given numerous UN resolutions and trade sanctions where North Korea is concerned.

Most accept that this has nothing to do with an attempt at launching a peaceful satellite but is in fact an extremely ominous, covert test for ballistic missiles.

But what can the international community do? Clearly, any long-term solution depends mostly on China and China’s foreign policy towards North Korea.

Chin areally does hold all the cards here, as just about North Koreas’ only ally, however China’s position is also somewhat invidious. If China, for example, far too publicly and vehemently rebukes North Korea for what many consider to be a move towards military capability, it could soon see any influence evaporate. If, on the other hand, China is seen to be too passive towards North Korea with little or no public criticism and rumours of covert communication, the international community will probably jump on China’s back, demanding greater efforts made to prevent further escalation of North Korea’s military capability.

The key challenge, however, facing China is the fact that both countries share extremely similar political systems and that this, above all else, dictates China’s relationship with this neighbouring country. China does not want to see reform towards multi-party democracy inside those nations with which it shares a border. Furthermore, China fears ‘change’ in North Korea will almost certainly lead to a greater, more influential role for South Korea and indirectly the U.S. in the region.

The Japanese, on the other hand, are openly vociferous in their condemnation of North Koreaand its military intentions. However, with Japan and the U.S. there is no umbilical cord binding the two unlike South Koreaand the U.S. This may offer a way forward for China, as it powers on its inevitable path to becoming the world’s largest economy. Improved relation with Japan, which has very much been the case in recent years, will not only lead to greater economic development in the region, but will also apply greater pressure on North Korea. It will also not involve any further increase in American influence in the region. Such a Sino-Japanese foreign policy alliance on North Korea, a sort of good cop – bad cop job, should also help prevent any trade protectionist measures between the two at a time of world economic turmoil and uncertainty. A symbiotic relationship, therefore, could ensue between open Sino-Japanese trade and positive political influence in the region. Of course the Americans will fear any apparent, tight Sino-Japanese economic and political alliance.

Mike Bastin is PhD student at School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.

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