US says China fears North Korea crisis after Putin trip

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un attend a gala concert in Pyongyang on June 19, 2024, in a photograph distributed by Russia’s Sputnik agency (Photo: AFP/Gavriil GRIGOROV)
Published June 25, 2024

WASHINGTON: China, despite its public alliance with Russia, is worried North Korea could be emboldened into starting a regional crisis following President Vladimir Putin’s visit, a top US official said Monday (June 24).

Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said that China has indicated in interactions with the United States that it is “anxious” after Putin last week signed a defence deal with Pyongyang.

“I think it would be fair to say that China is probably worried that North Korea will be somehow encouraged to take provocative steps that could lead to a crisis in Northeast Asia,” Campbell said at the Council on Foreign Relations.

He pointed to the rise in small-scale military incidents by North Korea on its frontier with the South, as well as Pyongyang’s “really provocative language” and “absolute clear determination” to avoid diplomacy with the United States.

Russia, the United States believes, is looking at greater support for North Korea including potentially on the nuclear front, Campbell said.

“This is a dangerous set of developments and one that we are watching,” Campbell said.



RELATED: Signs emerge North Korea-Russia defense pact making China anxious

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un exchange documents during a signing ceremony of a new partnership agreement in Pyongyang, North Korea, June 19, 2024.
Published June 24, 2024

The United States is carefully studying a new mutual defense pact between Russia and North Korea, which Washington believes could aid Pyongyang in its nuclear and long-range missile development programs.

There are also signs of tensions between North Korea and its longstanding ally, China, following the signing of the agreement.

China anxious

In a keynote address on sustaining U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific at the Council on Foreign Relations Monday, Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said China is probably worried that North Korea will be encouraged to take provocative steps that could lead to a crisis in Northeast Asia.

“I think it is fair to say that China is somewhat anxious about what’s going on between Russia and North Korea. They have indicated so in some of our interactions, and we can see some tension associated with this,” Campbell said.

Campbell said he had a call with South Korean officials Sunday night to discuss next steps to enhance deterrence more clearly.

“We believe that that there are discussions about what North Korea gets in exchange [from the deal with Russia] and they could be associated with its nuclear, long range missile development plans,” he said.



RELATED: As Russia and North Korea grow closer, China keeps its distance

Deepening cooperation between the two countries could create an uncomfortable situation for Beijing, which has strong influence over both pariah states.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday.Gavriil Grigorov / Sputnik via AP
Published June 25, 2024

BEIJING — China shares a “no limits partnership” with Russia and remains a crucial supporter to North Korea. Yet as its two neighbors — isolated by the U.S. and the West — forge closer ties, Beijing appears to be keeping its distance.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin rattled global geopolitics last week by signing a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement that includes a mutual defense pact, bringing the two nuclear-armed states closer than they have been since the Cold War.

Putin’s rare visit to North Korea, his first in 24 years, comes as he is seeking greater support from Pyongyang for his war in Ukraine. U.S. officials have told NBC News that in exchange for providing Russia with badly needed munitions, North Korea could get Russian assistance on the military technology it needs to advance its nuclear, missile and satellite programs, including weapons capable of reaching the continental United States.

The elevation in relations, which Kim described as an “alliance,” also sends a message to China, North Korea’s biggest lifeline, that Pyongyang has another powerful friend in Moscow.

“Kim Jong Un has a number of things to gain from this at a strategic level,” said John Delury, professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. “This gets China’s attention and makes Xi Jinping pay a little bit more heed perhaps to what’s going on across his border.”




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