One of the big questions hanging over US-China ties is how serious Beijing was about its threat to sanction US firms following the most recent announcement of US arms sale to Taiwan. Chinese bluster following such sales isn’t unusual, but as CSIS fellow Bonnie Glaser told me, the sanctions threat was something new.
According to a statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, Beijing still intends to follow through on the threat, but has not confirmed exactly when it might do so. If it does, this would be something of a departure from the usual protests, and it would be interesting to see what other ways it might find to indicate its displeasure. North Korea policy is one area that China watchers have their eye on–will the current protestations stretch to include this?
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‘Washington also is concerned about how China will react on international issues such as efforts to halt nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran.
‘Qin did not speculate on whether Beijing’s stance toward North Korea will be affected by the rift, saying China will continue to seek peace and stability in the region.’
Interestingly, according to Japan’s Asahi newspaper, a Chinese official visiting North Korea asked Pyongyang to abandon plans to name Kim Jong-il’s third son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor. Of course, the veracity of this story is impossible to know as in true Japanese media fashion it relies on an unnamed source, and as one leading Korea watcher rightly noted to me, Japanese newspapers are, in effect, able to report rumour as fact. If it is true, it seems an extraordinary step for a Chinese official to intervene in this way. But, as with so much else surrounding North Korea, there’s no telling for sure.