Russia had been pushing North Korea to abandon China for quite some time now. The campaign to drive a wedge between Beijing and Pyongyang proved to be successful, as North Korea did abandon China. It’s an openly kept secret that China and Russia are traditional foes. Their cosmetic friendship in times of crisis fools nobody. Moscow is very wary of Beijing’s nefarious plans to become the sole hegemon of Asia and the world at large.
So, the Kremlin has been taking strategic and subtle steps to undercut Chinese influence in the region – especially its immediate neighbourhood. But China after long has now caught the scent of an opportunity. Xi Jinping has made a move to snatch North Korea from Russia, and Vladimir Putin is not going to like it.
You see Russia’s focus is currently on Ukraine. It is waging a war against the East European country. So, Chinese President Xi Jinping has gone for Pyongyang intending to win over Kim Jong Un once again.
Xi’s Mellowing attempt at North Korea
Xi Jinping has sent a message to Kim Jong Un. According to Reuters, Xi Jinping stressed to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the significance of cooperation between the two countries. In a message to Kim, the Chinese despot said China is ready to work, together with the Korean side, to steadily develop the China-DPRK relations of friendship and cooperation … “under a new situation”.
China has not explained this term. North Korea is remaining mum. Yet, both countries know what it means. The “new situation” that Xi Jinping is talking about is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resultant global isolation that Moscow is facing.
Russia has been sanctioned. The Russian economy, the democratic world believes, will soon be crippled. Therefore, Xi Jinping is using this ‘Western’ narrative to his advantage. He is conveying to Kim Jong Un that Russia can no longer help North Korea cut down its dependence on China.
So, Beijing is the only major ally that North Korea has. China’s message to Kim Jong Un is clear – embrace us, or perish.
At the behest of Russia, Pyongyang has taken several anti-China steps in the recent past. From boycotting the Winter Olympics in Beijing to rejecting shipments of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines – North Korea has done it all.
According to a November 2021 report released by the US Department of Defense (DoD), relations between China and the DPRK have stagnated over the last year as a result of Pyongyang’s extreme COVID-19 prevention measures, which have stifled both trade and diplomatic exchange between the two communist countries.
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On the other hand, Russia has slowly yet steadily gained influence in the country. According to satellite images analysed by NK Pro, North Korea is building massive railway facilities along its tight border with Russia. This hints at an expected resumption of rail freight commerce between the two countries.
Therefore, China’s attempt at torpedoing Russia’s plans to influence North Korea may not augur well with Vladimir Putin, who has now abundantly proven that he is willing to go to any lengths to secure Russian interests. The China-Russia “alliance”, in the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis, is beginning to unwind rather spectacularly.