What impact will a rising China have on the North Pacific security environment? A close examination of recent developments in Beijing’s approach to dealing with North Korea yields insights into the broader implications of China’s grow- ing role in North Pacific security affairs. While China’s relationships with other neighboring countries and the United States are evolving, China has had close interactions with North Korea since the establishment of both countries in the late 1940s. Despite difficult periods in the bilateral relationship, the Communist Party of China (CPC)–Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) ties have proven to be resilient over the decades.
The current period of rapid growth in China’s economic, military, and diplo- matic activities is intertwined with expanding CPC-KWP interactions. Beijing is applying more of its increasing resources and diplomatic capital to bolster stability in North Korea and achieve denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. In this respect, it appears that China’s rise will have a significant impact on the regional security environment as China seeks to address the North Korean nuclear issue—a chronic near-term threat to regional security and stability. To assess the impact of these Chinese activities on the North Pacific security environment, this paper will examine gaps between the international community’s perception and reality of China’s growing capabilities, how China has tailored its foreign policy principles to the North Pacific region, the specific mechanism through which China engages North Korea, and the implications of the progress that Premier Wen Jiabao achieved in the CPC-KWP relationship during his October 2009 visit to Pyongyang.