There is now an extraordinarily insightful paper by Fu Ying on the DPRK-USA tensions. She was the head of the Chinese delegation involved in bringing together the USA and the DPRK a decade or more ago and she is now chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress. Fu Ying is the most experienced Chinese foreign relations expert, with a deep understanding of North Korean concerns. Her recent detailed assessment can be found here.

She shows consistently how direct dialogue has eased tensions, how the DPRK has responded and continues to respond to US provocation and reneging on agreements, how vulnerable the DPRK feels and the failure to understand this vulnerability. In her careful diplomatic way, she makes it clear that just when agreements had been reached, the USA started ramping up sanctions and bellicose actions. Obviously, this was viewed as a betrayal of the agreements in the DPRK. In fact, sanctions came first and the DPRK’s response second. Again and again, the DPRK has been quite willing to shut down its nuclear weapons capacity, anticipating that the threats and sanctions would be removed. The USA had not reciprocated, since it is clearly unwilling to compromise. In fact, its agenda is for the DPRK and its communist system to be destroyed. The DPRK views this position as non-negotiable. Now we are in a situation where China (and indeed Russia) want an end to US build-up of weapons in the Korean Peninsula – especially THAAD – and an end to joint large-scale military exercises between the USA and South Korea. In exchange, the DPRK would denuclearise and achieve the peacetime stability it desperately craves.

Through the whole piece is the consistent position that China seeks peaceful resolution, since it shares a long border with the DPRK.

There are many good points in the long article, but I really love this section, in the midst of discussing the dialogues of 2003:

I remember during one visit to Washington, the U.S. side stated: “We agree to talk, but the military option is also on the table.” The Chinese side disagreed with this and argued that if the U.S. insisted on keeping the military option, North Korea would also keep the nuclear option. In a later meeting in Washington, the U.S. told us that the wording had been adjusted to “The military option is not off the table.” It was quite hard to see the difference between the two versions, especially for non-English speakers, but the American side insisted that these were the president’s words. I jokingly asked an American colleague: if the military option “is not off the table” and not necessarily on the table, then where could it be? And he said that one could only use one’s imagination. When I conveyed this sentence to my North Korean counterpart Ri Gun, he looked at me, eyes wide open, and asked, “Then where is it now?”