China Agrees To Sanctions On North Korea, Shifts Focus To South Korea?

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Though previously thought of as an ally to the recluse nation of North Korea, China has come to an agreement with the United States for sanctions on the North, because of its nuclear testing.

UN diplomats are reporting that China and the U.S. have drafted a new resolution punishing North Korea for its most recent nuclear test, which took place in mid-February. Details of the resolution are yet to be released, but drafts are expected to float around this week.

China, one of the five permanent members who wield veto power in the UN Security Council, has continuously vetoed resolutions calling for sanctions on North Korea in the past. Just last December, after North Korea’s successful missile launch, the UN Security Council called for a meeting where sanctions that would match those on Iran were proposed. China did not pass the resolution until the sanctions were watered down significantly.

In the past, the two nations have forged a relationship over their shared Communist ideology and values. However, China’s attitude on sanctions changed following North Korea’s third nuclear test and the threat of more to come later this year. China’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly condemned the nuclear testing, saying the nation was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” to the testing, and has since taken a tougher stance on its ally.

Now, China’s alliance with Korea looks to be heading south, literally. Chinese relations with South Korea have begun warming up and are set to improve with the South’s new president, Park Geun-hye. Park is reportedly a fluent Chinese speaker and has received a honorary degree from the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan. In addition to that, cultural exports between China and South Korea are at an all-time high, with Korean dramas and music reaching mainstream success in China. According to state-run Xinhua News Agency report, trade between the two nations has increased 40-fold over the past two decades.

Is China’s shift toward South Korea a good decision? Many on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, are saying good riddance to the alliance with the North.

“North Korea is like a little brother. Such an annoyance for us, there have been too many chances,” one blogger said of the metaphoric brotherly relationship the two nations share.

Another blogger wondered if there was a political agenda behind the new sanctions agreement, asking, “What are the benefits [of the agreement with the US] for China? Will the United States be silent about the Diaoyu?” -- a reference to the dispute China has with U.S. ally Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

Some other users took the news seriously and instead made a commentary on a different, and not quite as serious, story that came out of North Korea recently.

“It seems that basketball diplomacy works,” one user sarcastically added, referencing former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s recent trip to Pyongyang, where he met with the pariah leader and “awesome kid” Kim Jong-Un. Another chimed in, “Protocol [for the sanctions] prohibits the broadcast of the NBA,” referencing the now widely reported fact that Kim is a huge fan of basketball and watched an exhibition game with Rodman.

As China takes a step away from its long-time ally, the world can only speculate what the current status is between the two nations. As Shanghai-based news-blog The Shanghaiist puts it: China just changed its Facebook relationship status to "It’s complicated."

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