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China’s Expanding Ambitions and the Changing Strategic Significance of North Korea


Over the past two years, North Korea has conducted multiple missile and rocket tests, seeking to further extend the range of their limited nuclear weapons. At the start of this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un changed the constitution and abandoned the goal of peaceful reunification with South Korea. Such aggressive moves have undermined efforts to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula.

A New Axis of Evil 

Yuan Hongbin, the former head of the law school at Peking University and renowned Chinese dissident based in Australia, stated on NTD’s Chinese language program “Pinnacle View” that throughout World War II, the Communist Party of Korea was essentially a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It was only after the war, when the Soviet Union forcibly intervened, that the Communist Party of Korea gained some autonomy.

He explained that the CCP helped to build the North Korean military under its former dictator, Kim Il Sung, thereby giving Kim Il Sung the military capability to invade South Korea. “Therefore, North Korea is an evil communist regime nurtured jointly by the former Soviet Union and the CCP,” said Mr. Yuan.

Mr. Yuan believes that North Korea, whether in terms of its economy or even its nuclear capability, is not sufficient to cause a catastrophe on an international scale. North Korea itself lacks the technological and economic capabilities to develop nuclear weapons and missiles. Therefore, those technologies must be imported, and China is the major supplier. Without the CCP, the North Korean regime cannot be a regional threat on its own.

“To understand the current relationship between the CCP and North Korea, including the tensions between North and South Korea, one must adopt a broader international perspective,” he said. “This broader perspective is that Xi Jinping aims to take a crucial step towards the global expansion of communism by launching a war in the Taiwan Strait. Internationally, a 21st-century axis of evil has formed with the Chinese regime, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and some anti-American Islamist groups. The recent sudden change in North Korea’s attitude towards South Korea is because North Korea has now effectively placed itself within the strategic scope of the CCP’s battle [against Taiwan].”

The US-Japan-South Korea Military Alliance 

Guo Jun, editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times, explained on “Pinnacle View” that the geopolitical landscape on the Korean Peninsula has evolved significantly, especially after the Cold War.

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In terms of geopolitics. South Korea has always had the backing of the United States, while the Soviet Union and China originally supported North Korea. After the Soviet Union collapsed, China reduced its support. This later led to North Korea developing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, which greatly threatened peace in the region, according to Ms. Guo.

Ms. Guo further explained that recently, Russia has been strengthening ties with North Korea due to the Russia-Ukraine War and its strained relationship with the United States. Similarly, tensions between China and the United States have again led China to use North Korea as leverage.

“The situation in Northeast Asia is now very clear with two [opposing] camps,” said Ms. Guo. “On the United States’ side are Japan and South Korea, and on China’s side are Russia and North Korea. So the Korean Peninsula is the direct point of conflict. Currently, the United States is pushing for full-fledged military cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea, with the main target being China, not North Korea.”

According to the American global policy think tank RAND Corporation, if China were to attack Taiwan, the U.S. military could conduct sudden air raids on the industrial centers of northern China using U.S. fighter jets based in South Korea and Japan. Therefore, the U.S. military presence in South Korea poses a significant deterrence to the CCP’s expansionist agenda.

Nuclear Threat from the Hermit Kingdom

Lee Jun, an independent Chinese TV producer, stated on “Pinnacle View” that the current situation is as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol described. The threat from North Korea requires both rational and irrational analysis. From a rational perspective, North Korea is unlikely to use nuclear weapons to start a war because if a nuclear war were to break out, the United States would retaliate, resulting in the downfall of the communist regime.

However, there is also an irrational perspective. When a dictator like Kim Jong Un reaches a certain level of power, his thought process becomes unpredictable. North Korea’s conventional weapons are insufficient, but once it resorts to nuclear weapons, the disaster would not be limited to the Korean Peninsula but would affect the wider region. Therefore, Mr. Yoon was very clear that we must prepare for the worst.

Frequent polls last year show that an overwhelming majority of 70 to 80 percent of South Koreans support their nation acquiring nuclear weapons or are urging the United States to bring back nuclear weapons that it removed from South Korea in the 1990s.

Some U.S.-based think tanks have also analyzed whether the United States would be able to support South Korea immediately if North Korea were to launch a nuclear attack.

Shi Shan, senior writer and contributor to the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times, said on the show that the United States estimates that North Korea’s atomic bomb is roughly equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT, similar to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. However, the atomic bomb is a deterrent weapon. If North Korea were to use it, regardless of whether it explodes or not, or when the United States feels that North Korea is truly about to use it, North Korea as a country would cease to exist.

“The United States’ current nuclear arsenal, especially the warheads on Trident missiles, are extremely terrifying, and the retaliation they can unleash is also very frightening,” he said. “Therefore, they cannot be used as tactical weapons but only as strategic deterrents in that regard.”

Mr. Shi also explained what the South Korean president meant when discussing analyzing North Korea irrationally. He said, “For some dictators, if they cannot survive if their country has no reason to exist, and if they lose their power, then they see no reason for the world to exist either. This is their worldview, and this is what we consider irrational. However, this may be completely rational for the dictators themselves because this is how they view the world.”

According to Mr. Shi, while North Korea may not have a significant role in impacting the world, it may play many unexpected roles in East Asia, particularly in the geopolitical conflict between China and Taiwan.

Michael Zhuang contributed to this report.

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