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Your questions for Zhu Feng

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COMMENTS

7 October 2011 13:00

Peter Martin is a political consultant based in Beijing. Along with David Cohen, he is conducting a series of interviews on behalf of The Interpreter with Chinese academics and journalists.

In the next part of our interview series, we'll be speaking on 15 October to Zhu Feng, an internationally renowned expert on North Korea and nuclear disarmament. As before, we'll be asking you to send your questions to blogeditor@lowyinstitute.org .

Zhu is the deputy director of Peking University's Center for International and Strategic Studies and one of China's leading scholars of international relations. He is a frequent guest on Chinese television and enjoys high-level policy access as an adviser to China's leaders.

North Korea is a major diplomatic headache for Chinese leaders, and China is central to understanding the behavior of the reclusive state. As tensions have risen again in the Korean Peninsula over the sinking of a South Korean ship and an exchange of fire between the two countries, all eyes have been on China – as the source of 60% of the North's foreign trade and the country's only major ally, China is the only country that appears to have much influence. 

However, China has consistently refused to censure North Korea's leaders, keeping the country's food and oil lifelines open despite hopes that it will use them to discipline the smaller nation.

The relationship between the two People's Republics was 'forged in blood' during the Korean War, which is remembered in China as a victory against the US. In the 1950s, the two sides shared a common ideology as well as manifold common enemies. But since reform and opening, they have had less and less in common, with analysts describing frequent rows, although they are still formally bound by a mutual-defense treaty.

Zhu is a critic of China's North Korean policy, describing the alliance as 'morbid comradeship'. In an editorial published in English last year, he warned, 'If North Korea fails to restrain itself, and China's approach remains tantamount to coddling a dangerous, nuclear-armed state, strategic rivalry across East Asia might revive around a Washington-Tokyo-Seoul axis vis-à-vis a China-North Korea coalition.'

China's relationship with North Korea has grown costly, both in foreign aid and diplomacy. It strains ties with the US as well as China's northeast Asian neighbors, and fears of North Korea could drive Japan to seek a nuclear armoury, triggering a regional arms race. But China has been unable to extricate itself, fearing an influx of refugees if the totalitarian regime collapses. Reunification of the Korean peninsula could also bring American troops stationed in South Korea up to the Chinese border.

We look forward to seeing your questions! Please send them to blogeditor@lowyinstitute.org .

Photo by Flickr user Bert van Dijk.

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