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China's role in taming N. Korea 'overestimated': expert

All Headlines 11:06 May 07, 2014

BEIJING, May 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is not likely to heed China's warning against conducting its fourth nuclear test, a Chinese expert said Wednesday, arguing that Beijing's role in taming Pyongyang has been "overestimated."

North Korea has threatened to carry out a "new form" of nuclear test since March. In New York on Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told United Nations diplomats that the North is ready for a new test "whenever they make the necessary political decision."

China has grown increasingly frustrated with the North's wayward behavior, but many analysts believe that Beijing would not take tougher actions, including suspending or restricting supplies of food and energy, because it could lead to a regime collapse in North Korea.

Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Studies Center at Yanbian University, told China's state-run Global Times newspaper that North Korea will respond with even more provocative ways if China takes a "tough stance."

"Beijing's role has been overestimated. As long as Pyongyang is determined to develop nuclear weapons, it will not be obedient to any other country including China," Jin said.

"So far, North Korea has exploited the weak points of the Chinese government to continue to pursue its nuclear goals. It has been aware that China wants to maintain the stability of its threshold at the northeastern borders," Jin said.

"If Beijing takes a tough stance toward Pyongyang, the latter will behave in a more provocative way," he said.

South Korea's government had suspected that North Korea might carry out a test late last month when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Seoul. Obama warned North Korea of more sanctions with "more bite" if the North went ahead with a nuclear test.

Jin said North Korea will choose the timing of a test by taking its own interests into account.

"There were speculations that the North would carry out a fourth nuclear test during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Seoul in late April, as its previous nuclear tests have shown that it intentionally chooses symbolic events to take provocative actions," Jin said.

"But this time, Pyongyang apparently pulled back. One consideration of it might be that right now South Koreans are immersed in the tragic incident with the ferry Sewol and have blamed the Park Geun-hye administration for the disaster," Jin said.

If North Korea conducts a nuclear test at this time, it will help the South Korean government "As nationalistic sentiments in South Korea will turn against the North," Jin said.

"Therefore, the North will not necessarily choose a timing favorable for the South but will take its own interests into consideration," Jin said.

South Korea is still in deep mourning and shock 22 days after the 6,825-ton ferry Sewol sank off its southwest coast on April 16. Of the 476 people on board, only 174 people were rescued, with 269 confirmed dead and 33 still missing as of Wednesday.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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