September 27, 2023

An uncertain future: Sino-DPRK relations

China plays a central part in determining North Korea’s future, as it is a key international backer and ally as well as its largest trading partner and source of food and energy. However, China’s relationship with North Korea is complex and its future ambiguous, particularly in light of the recent leadership change in North Korea. There are a number of potential scenarios which could seriously upset the already unstable bilateral relationship.

Overall, the Sino-DPRK relationship is characterised by historical and ideological ties as well as official declarations of friendship. During the past year there was frequent high-level communication between the two states, though recent years have seen increasingly complicated bilateral relations. North Korea’s nuclear tests have strained its neighbour’s patience and China has played a key role in international negotiations over denuclearising the peninsula. The North Korean succession is likely to be accompanied by further uncertainty in bilateral relations, particularly this coming year with a new incoming Chinese leadership.