Beijing not obliged to defend Pyongyang as its development of nuclear weapons breaches mutual defence pact, experts say as US warns it may launch strike against North
By Kristin Huang
South China Morning Post
China is not obliged to help defend North Korea from military attack if the reclusive state developed nuclear weapons, according to Chinese diplomatic and military observers.
The assessment comes as senior officials in Washington warn of a strike against the Pyongyang regime.
This undated picture released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS on March 7, 2017 shows the launch of four ballistic missiles by the Korean People’s Army (KPA) during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea.
China and North Korea signed a mutual aid and cooperation treaty in 1961 as they sought to mount a united front against Western powers. It specifies that if one of the parties comes under armed attack, the other should render immediate assistance, including military support.
But the treaty also says both nations should safeguard peace and security.
For China, North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons in violation of the United Nations treaty on non-proliferation could amount to a breach of their pact, leaving Beijing with no obligation to lend a hand, observers said.
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China could also have a get-out clause if any US military intervention was not deemed an armed attack.
“It’s hard to say how China would assist North Korea militarily in case of war, since North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, an act that might have already breached the treaty between the two nations,” said Li Jie, a retired Chinese naval colonel.
Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong said China would need to provide military assistance to North Korea if US land forces invaded, but Pyongyang’s violation of the UN non-proliferation treaty was a “strong reason” for Beijing to choose not to help.
Threats of military action against North Korea have grown, with US President Donald Trump saying Washington was prepared to act alone against Pyongyang.
A strike group headed by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson has also been deployed to waters off the Korean peninsula.
Nevertheless, Beijing, North Korea’s economic lifeline, does have some interest in backing up its old ally. China fears the collapse of the regime in Pyongyang could lead to an influx of refugees into China and eliminate the buffer zone keeping US troops from the Chinese border.
Tags: China and North Korea mutual aid and cooperation treaty, Donald Trump, Japan, Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies, North Korea, North Sea Fleet, South Korea, united front against Western powers, Xi Jinping
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