Russia-N Korea ties cause discomfort in China

Russia’s close military ties with North Korea may have emerged as a cause for discomfort to China, which was already frustrated over the delay in the Siberia 2 gas pipeline, said people aware of the matter.

It is widely believed that North Korea could obtain weapons technology from Russia, a development which could expedite its weaponisation programme.

Experts on Far East Asian affairs said China could be concerned as any defence ties between Russia and North Korea could make the region more unstable.

China views North Korea as a buffer state against US forces stationed in South Korea and has been looking to maintain the status quo in the region. It is concerned that if North Korea threatens to use advanced weapons with Russian technology, it could provoke a stronger response from the US, said the people.

The US had raised the issue of North Korea’s weaponisation programme with China during the recent Wang Yi-Jack Sullivan meet in Bangkok. The Americans have been consulting China over the years on North Korean ambitions and want it to use its influence to rein in North Korea.

The Chinese are reportedly in touch with North Koreans to understand the “depth” of Russia-N Korea ties. China’s vice minister of foreign affairs Sun Weidong met with North Korea’s foreign minister Choe Son Hui on January 26 in Pyongyang, where the two agreed “strengthen tactical cooperation and keep pace with each other to defend the common core interests”, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The ‘Power of Siberia 2 ‘pipeline will pass through the Mongolian territory to reach China. The construction of the 3,550km pipeline has been delayed as Russia and China are yet to agree on critical issues of the project. Russia is seeking better financial terms from China for proposed gas supplies and this may cast a shadow over bilateral ties, ET had earlier reported.

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