Beijing sets out to expand its influence in North Asia
Beijing is losing patience with its troublesome client state North Korea, demonstrated by Xi Jinping’s visit to Seoul at the start of this month before ever stepping on North Korean soil so far in his presidency or extending an invitation to Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong-un to visit Beijing.
In a telling exchange, Tian Guoli, chairman of the Bank of China, who was along for the trip, described China and Korea as “close neighbors like a mouth and tongue.” That is almost a blasphemous reworking of Mao Zedong’s famed words defining the partnership with the North Korean ally – as like “lips and teeth.”
That doesn’t mean Beijing is going to give up on a client state that has served as a useful buffer blocking US influence for more than five decades. During the Korean War (1950-1953), China sided with the North, losing 114,000 soldiers in action with another 70,000 dying of wounds. Some 25,000 remain missing, a total loss of more than 200,000 of China’s young men