Yang Xiyu, a researcher of China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), is the former director of Korean Peninsula Affairs Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In an interview with the China Press, a US-based Chinese language newspaper, he shared his views on China-US relations with regard to the North Korea nuclear issue.
Viewpoints: Neither America nor N.Korea expects war with each other despite having conflicting interests. Probably, sanctions and opposition to sanctions would be a normal state of affairs in the N.Korea nuclear issue for a very long time.
Zero tolerance on N. Korea nuclear program
The US’ attitude toward N.Korea’s nuclear program is zero tolerance, which has never changed over the past few decades, even not allowing its ally South Korea to have nuclear weapons.
The US is still looking to solve this issue through the Six-Party Talks, but the problem is, while N.Korea thinks the talk should be unconditional, the US regards the precondition of a talk to be the denuclearization of N.Korea.
Decades ago when China was governed by Chairman Mao, China offered nearly everything to N.Korea from bread and butter to fighters and artillery, but not a penny when it came to nuclear weapons.
China will continue to stick to this stance in the future. N.Korea’s nuclear test site is based in Paekdusan area, the water source of Northeast China’s three provinces which have hundreds of millions of people and a large number of active volcanos. Development of nuclear weapons in this region could pose direct threat to the safety of China.
N.Korea’s reasons behind nuclear program
N.Korea has its own theory in developing nuclear weapons - to attract the US’ attention. The reason the US thinks little of N.Korea and is reluctant to have a dialogue is that N.Korea itself is not strong enough. If one day the country becomes strong enough to scare the US, then the US would have no choice but to talk. N.Korea’s goal is to become a military power throughout the world.
Objectively, developing nuclear weapons is the only way to become a military power as conventional military force would not be enough.
However, N.Korea does not really mean to start a war with the US by developing nuclear weapons. Since last year, N.Korean authorities released a series of information and photos of its nuclear weapons and missile technology, all concerning national secrets which few countries would love to show to others. If N.Korea really wants a war, it would never do such things.
N. Korea knows as well as the Soviet Union did decades ago that nuclear weapons alone will not help it defend its regime. The domestic situation is problematic now, which its leader knows better than anyone.
Therefore, Kim Jong-un has laid equal stress on developing nuclear weapons and the economy, which can be seen in the several new established special economic zones over the past one year.
However, N.Korea is now caught in a dilemma as developing nuclear weapons and economy is a zero-sum game. Developing nuclear weapons will have a huge opportunity cost.
America would finally talk to N.Korea
The US would never want to see a war with N.Korea out of its own national security interests despite the seemingly active military exercise and deployment. Ultimately, dialogue would be the only choice.
This is because the US is now confronting three other more severe battlefields throughout the world - the north Atlantic region centered on Russia, international terror attacks led by the IS, and the Asia Pacific region led by China, which concern the very basic interests of the US.
N. Korea’s nuclear issue is not the priority of US at all, not even as important as the Iran nuclear issue which concerns the situation of the whole Middle East.
However, it is still hard to predict when the deadlock could be broken considering the different preconditions the two sides have.
(This article is translated and edited by Chunmei.)