1) China has supported the move to expand sanctions on North Korea following the rocket launch, and yet debris of the latest missile showed that many of its parts had actually come from China. Does this present a conflict for China’s position in the UN Security Council, and should there be ramifications for its involvement?
More than a conflict, this issue represents China’s diplomatic dilemma. Specifically, to straddle the line between maintaining its loyalty to the DPRK–which acts as a strategic buffer zone to US military forces based in South Korea–and its more self-interested need to appear as a more neutral and responsible member of the international community, especially given the PRC’s rising economic and military recent influence.
There won’t be any actions taken against the PRC for the discovered Chinese parts in North Korea’s intercontinental missile for several reasons. Namely, the parts, which include wires, sensors, and a battery voltage converter are not in violation of international agreements (specifically, the Missile Technology Control Regime), and several other parts were also allegedly imported from several European countries.
2) Will China’s move against NK cause any serious diplomatic tensions, and what might have motivated their decision to back the sanctions?
North Korea will probably understand that, given China’s rising power and position in the UN, that the PRC’s decision to “condemn” the DPRK’s recent missile and satellite launch represents the least worst strategic alternative for both the PRC and DPRK. This is because the current draft resolution merely “condemns” the North’s actions and calls for tightening of already existing sanctions, but does not call for new immediate sanctions.
3) Will these expanded sanctions be enough to contain the threat o another rocket launch, or might it further aggravate the issue?
The short answer is “no.” North Korea is what I refer to as a “super-sanctioned state”–one of the most sanctioned states in the world–yet it still continues to do what it does.
4) How might the sanctions affect South Korean relations with Beijing, especially in the face of a new presidential office?
The new UN resolution will probably have little effect in terms of Sino-South Korean diplomatic relations since the major states have so far generally agreed to its embedded suggested language.
5) Do you think China’s support implicates a change in global dynamics as China moves to closer ties with the US?
It does not, in my view. But the next generation of future PRC leaders may take the view–as has been speculated by several China experts–that the costs of loyalty and support of North Korea may outweigh the PRC’s self-interest of furthering its global hegemony, which in part, may be hindered if Beijing’s leadership continues to support a regime, North Korea, that is largely viewed by the international community as a dangerous outlier.
6) How do you think the US views China’s changed attitude to NK which it once considered its close ally?
As stated above, China has not changed its diplomatic stance regarding the current proposed UN resolution against North Korea. So it demonstrates that things will be more of the same at least in the short run under the leadership of Xi Xinping.