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China’s Policy on North Korea: Economic Engagement and Nuclear Disarmament
Mathieu Duchâtel and Phillip Schell
SIPRI Policy Paper no. 40
ISBN 978-91-85114-82-5

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In the period between North Korea’s second and third nuclear tests, and in the midst of the succession to Kim Jong Il, China’s economic relations with North Korea expanded at an unprecedented pace. It is a widely held view in China that this increase in economic exchanges can help make non‑proliferation measures more effective and revive the disarmament process.

This report looks back at four years of Chinese policy on North Korea to examine this thesis. The authors, placing a unique emphasis on Chinese perspectives, show that bilateral economic relations and China’s policy on the North Korean nuclear issue are indeed linked. They conclude that this makes China by far the most important player in securing non‑proliferation and containment, two intermediary goals on the way to North Korea’s denuclearization.


1. Introduction
2. China’s balancing act: supporting a stable succession in the context of nuclear crisis
3. China’s support for North Korean economic development policies
4. China’s strategy to promote denuclearization: the role of economic engagement
5. Conclusions
Appendix A. Official visits
Appendix B. Key statements and agreements of the Six-Party Talks

About the authors

Dr Mathieu Duchâtel (France) is head of SIPRI’s China and Global Security Project and is SIPRI’s representative in Beijing. His research interests include China’s foreign and security policies in North East Asia and Europe–China relations. His recent publications include ‘La politique étrangère chinoise sous Xi Jinping’ [China’s foreign policy under Xi Jinping], Hérodote (2013), and China’s Exports of Small Arms and Light Weapons, SIPRI Policy Paper no. 38 (Oct. 2013, co‑author).

Phillip Schell (Germany) is a Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme. His research focuses on security issues related to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, with a regional specialization on East Asia and South Asia. His recent publications include A New START Model for Transparency in Nuclear Disarmament (UNIDIR, 2013, co‑author) and contributions to the SIPRI Yearbook on nuclear forces.

Publisher: SIPRI
ISBN 978-91-85114-82-5
68 pp.
December 2013
Price: €7.50 per copy plus €5 shipping and handling per order


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