Nayan Chanda at PostGlobal

Nayan Chanda

New Haven, Conn., United States

Nayan Chanda is the Director of Publications and the Editor of YaleGlobal Online Magazine at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. For nearly thirty years before he joined Yale University, Chanda was with the Hong Kong-based magazine the Far Eastern Economic Review as its editor, editor-at-large and correspondent. Close.

Nayan Chanda

New Haven, Conn., United States

Nayan Chanda is the Director of Publications and the Editor of YaleGlobal Online Magazine at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. more »

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China's Leverage Is an Illusion

New Haven, USA - Despite constant talk about Chinese leverage over North Korea, the reality may just be the opposite. Given China's huge stake in security along its eastern border and the unpredictability of a nuclear-armed North Korea, the Beijing-Pyongyang relationship appears to be one in which the tail is wagging the dog.

To be sure, China can halt the trains that regularly carry food and fuel to the intransigent socialist brother. But such an action could have unpredictable and undesirable consequences for China. If Chinese pressure resulted in a peaceful collapse of the regime, it would release a human wave of starving refugees across the border and into the Sea of Japan. An international humanitarian intervention in a chaotic North Korea or a rushed reunification with the South might ensue, which could bring American or other foreign forces right up to the Chinese border -- a dreaded prospect for Beijing.

The launch of the long-range Taepodong 2 missile may have been a flop, but by firing six short-range missiles in quick succession in the darkness of night, North Korea has basically put Beijing as well as Seoul and Tokyo on notice about its mischief-making capacity.

Fully aware that the Chinese Politburo is as worried as he is, if not more so, about the collapse of his regime, the Dear Leader could afford to ignore Beijing's warnings. The impact of the missile launches so far has been to galvanize China to lobby for more of what Kim wants -- direct talks with the U.S.

North Korea wants U.S. recognition as a nuclear power and would never give up nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of regime security. For the right price, however, it would keep its missiles in the hangar. China ideally would like Kim not to have the nukes, but it could certainly live with a better-behaved nuclear North Korea.

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