China's urging "flexibility" on North Korea appears to coincide with the Chinese Communist Party's ambitions in the region.
"According to unclassified intelligence reports to Congress, there are five key Chinese banks and a specially created holding company that funds the North Korean missile and nuclear technology programs." — Peter Huessy, Real Clear Defense, August 10, 2017.
China's main strategic concern when it comes to the Korean peninsula is apparently to end the US presence there and keep it out of US hands so that China can finally establish itself as the hegemon in the region.
North Korean escalation in the form of increased missile tests and resumption of ICBM and nuclear tests to pressure the US to make concessions -- in the shape of troop withdrawals from South Korea -- would play directly into the hands of China, enabling it to replace the US and establish itself as the primary power in the region.
"They are looking to take actions, which we believe are fundamentally destabilizing, as a way to increase pressure." — US official in Washington to journalists, France24.com, January 31, 2022.
China, however, seems to have no interest in cooperating with the US on North Korea. Attempts to secure "Beijing's cooperation" to build necessary economic leverage over North Korea are therefore exercises in futility.
China clearly cannot be relied on voluntarily to use its leverage over North Korea to persuade Kim Jong-un to give up his missile and nuclear program. To resolve the impasse, it is necessary to employ means that will leave China no choice other than to cooperate on North Korea.
A highly efficient way of doing that, Gordon Chang has suggested, would be to cut off the large Chinese banks and businesses that support the North Korean missile and nuclear technology from the global financial system by designating them a "primary money laundering concern" under Section 311 of the Patriot Act.
"In short, American policymakers know how to get China to begin acting responsibly." — Gordon G. Chang, Newsweek, May 10, 2021.
The question now is -- will the Biden administration muster the political will to designate those large Chinese banks under Section 311 of the Patriot Act?
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Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
Pictured: A launch of the Hwasong-12 ballistic missile from an undisclosed location in North Korea, on August 29, 2017. (Photo by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency/STR/AFP via Getty Images)