China has become busy since the close relationship between North Korea and Russia began in earnest following the summit meeting between North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Chinese diplomatic commander Wang Yi, member of the Central Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China and Minister of Foreign Affairs, held a series of high-level meetings with his U.S. and Russian counterparts, followed by a China-Russia summit next month and a U.S.-China summit in November. The possibility of it being opened is also increasing. In this process, will China take the lead in the anti-Western front to keep the United States in check and try to secure the leadership in North Korea-China-Russia solidarity, or will it play a role in controlling North Korea-Russia by improving relations with the United States to a certain extent? Attention is focused on whether to choose.
● China becomes busier after North Korea-Russia talks
According to the U.S. White House and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Director Wang had a surprise meeting in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta on the 16th and 17th. The day before Director Wang visited Russia to hold a meeting between the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers, the heads of foreign affairs and security of the United States and China met first. This meeting comes four months after the Austrian meeting in May.
Regarding the meeting that lasted 12 hours over two days, the White House said, “We discussed major issues in U.S.-China relations, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and cross-Strait (China-Taiwan) issues, as well as regional security issues,” and added, “Both sides will maintain this strategic communication channel.” “We promised to pursue additional high-level contacts in the coming months.” The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that Director Wang said, “The Taiwan issue is a red line in U.S.-China relations,” but announced, “We agreed to maintain high-level exchanges.”
The meeting between the leaders of the two countries at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to be held in San Francisco in November, as a result of the meeting between the US and China diplomatic and security headquarters, appears to be finding momentum again. Until early this month, many predicted that it would be difficult for a US-China summit to be held within the year. In particular, this observation was given weight when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) did not attend the G20 summit held in India on the 9th. However, changes were felt in China after the North Korea-Russia summit on the 13th.
Director Wang immediately went to Moscow, Russia, to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the 18th, immediately after meeting with Aide Sullivan. Director Wang initially planned to attend the United Nations General Assembly held in New York, USA, but after the North Korea-Russia summit, he quickly canceled it and changed his destination to Russia. Director Wang’s visit to Russia appears to be aimed at coordinating the summit meeting between President Putin and President Xi, which is expected to take place in October. It is also expected that the results of the North Korea-Russia summit will be shared.
● China in a dilemma due to North Korea-Russia closeness
There is an analysis that the North Korea-Russia summit presented a dilemma to China, as evidenced by Director Wang’s busy actions. For China, there is nothing wrong with North Korea-Russia closeness in keeping the West, including the United States, in check, but at the same time, the growing influence of Russia or North Korea’s independence in Northeast Asia is bound to be uncomfortable. It is because of this situation that the international community is paying attention to China’s future actions.
Some interpret that the close relationship between North Korea and Russia has created a point of contact between the U.S. and China. Kim Heung-gyu, director of Ajou University’s U.S.-China Policy Research Institute, predicted, “China does not like being treated on the same level as Russia and North Korea (which are ‘international outcasts’),” and predicted, “China will not be deeply involved in North Korea-Russia solidarity.”
However, there are many speculations that China will continue to use this to keep the United States in check or maintain the balance of power in Northeast Asia while trying to secure leadership in the North Korea-China-Russia triangle.
CNN said, “Considering the U.S.-China rivalry, China will find advantages rather than risks in the newly emerging North Korea-Russia axis.” Victor Cha, vice-director of Asia and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank, said, “China cannot support Putin in the war in Ukraine, nor can it tolerate North Korea’s nuclear development,” but added, “China cannot support U.S. support for Taiwan.” “We can consider cooperation with North Korea and Russia as an effective means of blocking it,” he said.