After announcing the nation’s third nuclear test earlier this week, North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it plans on preparing for at least one more nuclear test this year.
According to a report from Reuters, which cites an anonymous source, North Korea’s future plans to conduct tests could include another rocket launch later this year. The tests are reportedly the North’s ways to force the United States into diplomatic talks. The source, who is said to have direct knowledge of the message and is in close contact with both Beijing and Pyongyang’s top officials, said that North Korea’s future nuclear tests would be much larger, with a device yielding 10 kilotons, compared to the most recent test that was 6-7 kilotons (1 kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT).
“It’s all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year,” the source said.
The tests will be started, the North says, unless the United States abandons its policies against North Korea. Most recently, the U.S., along with Asian allies Japan and South Korea, has warned of additional sanctions on the isolated state. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution tightening sanctions against the DPRK after its long-range rocket launch last December violated an already existing U.N. ban on nuclear technology and missile development.
China, the North's closest ally, has recently begun to appear to be re-evaluating its position, considering the destabilizing threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea aggressively conducting weapons tests on China's doorstep.
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China’s government has released several public statements expressing dissatisfaction with its North Korean neighbors and condemning the nuclear tests, the most recent of which occurred on the Chinese border. China’s shift away from support for its ally was also seen on an international level, when China, a permanent member of the Security Council, did not veto the most recent resolution.
Now, sources believe that if another resolution were proposed with even stricter sanctions, China would support it.
“When China supported U.N. sanctions … [North] Korea angrily called China a puppet of the United States,” the source said. “There will be new sanctions, which will be harsh. China is likely to agree to it,” the source added.
China currently supports North Korea with oil, gas, food and weapons, and could leverage that against the country, like it has done in the past. After a previous nuclear test, China cut off food resources temporarily. The source, however, doesn’t think this is likely for stability-obsessed China.
However, many of China’s netizens on Weibo, China’s microblogging service similar to Twitter, seem to support the idea of abandoning North Korea as an ally, claiming the costs of supporting the Kim Jong-un regime outweigh any benefit.
“[In the event of war] the United States would provide security for South Korea, would North Korea do so for China? It’s doubtful,” a user posted.
Others recognized that the North’s new leader, who took over from his father in 2011, is less willing to compromise.
“The Kim family has its own ideological governing, a military-first doctrine, they won’t back down,” the user said.
Another lamented that the government of another country dictates the decision-making of their government, rather than its own people.
“I think we can agree if there is a national threat, we want nothing [to do with them]. As we know, bloggers do not make decisions on behalf of the Chinese; the Korean people call the shots!”