Beijing's restrained response to a widely condemned rocket launch is based on its concern about North Korea's stability – and its view that a tough UN resolution could worsen regional security.
As the United Nations Security Council prepared to debate North Korea’s satellite launch earlier today, China signaled that it would likely veto any bid to punish its maverick ally with stiffer sanctions.
“The Security Council reaction should be prudent and moderate, conducive to peace and stability, avoiding an escalation of the situation,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, told reporters.
“I do not think China will support any effort to strengthen sanctions for fear that this would contribute to political instability in North Korea,” explains Cai Jian, a North Korea expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. “Beijing will not take any concrete action.”
Japan called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council today after the North Korean rocket passed over its territory. Japan’s government said it “cannot tolerate” the “extremely regrettable” launch, and Tokyo was reportedly seeking wider sanctions against North Korea in retaliation.
The successful launch of the rocket, which appears to have put a satellite into orbit as planned, marks a major advance in Pyongyang’s program to build an intercontinental ballistic missile that might one day carry a nuclear weapon. Today's launch followed the failure of North Korea’s four previous efforts to make a multistage rocket fly.