Hold China Responsible for North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons

September 13, 2021 Updated: September 14, 2021


North Korea said on Sept. 13 that it had launched new long-range cruise missiles. These missiles can likely carry nuclear weapons. The missile tests were the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s first since March, and highlight the continued danger that China, Russia, and their totalitarian ally, North Korea, hold for truly democratic countries in Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the United States.

North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, and has since frequently tested additional nuclear weapons and the missiles that carry them. The technological sophistication of these weapons has increased markedly in the last six years. The DPRK started testing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) in 2015.  In 2017, North Korea tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and a sixth underground nuclear weapon. Afterward, North Korea claimed the ability to hit the continental United States with a nuclear weapon.

In October 2020 and this January, North Korea paraded newly-developed ICBMs and SLBMs. North Korea’s March tests included a new ballistic missile that carries a 2.5-ton warhead. In August, the United Nations claimed that North Korea apparently restarted one of its main nuclear reactors. Earlier this month, South Korean media reported that North Korea was developing a short-range ballistic missile with a three-ton payload.

China has provided finances, high technology, front companies, and diplomatic cover to North Korea during its nuclear weapons development. Beijing protected North Korea diplomatically at the U.N. from tougher sanctions necessary to augment existing sanctions since 2006. U.N. sanctions weakened by Beijing have as a result failed, making the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responsible for North Korea’s continued transgressions, and any of the massive harms that could result.

In 2005, the United States effectively sanctioned a Chinese bank for the facilitation of North Korean money laundering. Xi Jinping, in 2011, approved the arguably illegal sale of 16-wheel trucks that North Korea needed to transport nuclear-capable missiles to launch pads. In 2016, North Korean Kwangmyongsong-4 rocket parts that fell into the Yellow Sea, and were retrieved by the South Korean navy, revealed that motor parts, wiring, and other essential components came from China.

Monday’s North Korean cruise missile tests included targets that were 932 miles away. They were hit, according to North Korea’s official media, after the missiles changed trajectory and circled their targets, making counter-missile defense more difficult. The missile strikes are implicit threats against South Korea and Japan’s five main islands, all of which are within range of the new missile. North Korea announced on Monday that the new cruise missile was “a strategic weapon of great significance” and a goal of North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, announced in January.

The missile test highlights the weakness of current U.N. sanctions against North Korea, which ban the country from developing or testing ballistic missiles that can reach the United States, but not the cruise missiles that can reach Japan and South Korea, including the U.S. forces on those islands.

As a result of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, all three countries are increasing their investment in missile and other military defenses. These costly military expenditures in democracies are the fault of China, Russia, and the rogue regimes they support, including North Korea. Without these offensively-oriented dictatorships, the United States and its allies would be able to devote more spending to social services.

American nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea are stalled, and successive American administrations have unfortunately been unwilling to take the necessary action, including tougher economic sanctions on China and North Korea, to remove the threat. This failure to take action against China and North Korea puts American and allied lives at risk.

Given the CCP’s influence over North Korea, the country could be used to launch a proxy war that includes nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies. This could allow Beijing to facilitate nuclear strikes without suffering retaliation, which would effectively remove American deterrence of a nuclear war.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, is scheduled to meet the South Korean foreign minister on Sept. 15. The latest DPRK missile test will give Beijing more bargaining leverage over South Korea during these talks. South Korea increasingly needs the CCP’s assistance in decreasing the threat from North Korea. Indeed, the Sept. 13 test may have been timed by Beijing to assist it in the Sept. 15 negotiations.

China has been implicated in the provision of funding, technology, and diplomatic support for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and in turn, benefits from the North Korean program due to its close alliance with the country. The CCP regime must therefore be held fully responsible for any harm that results from North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).