China–North Korea relations

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China–North Korea relations
Map indicating locations of People's Republic of China and North Korea


North Korea
Embassy of North Korea in China

China–North Korea relations (Korean: 조중 관계) are bilateral between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea).

China maintains an embassy in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and a consulate general in Chongjin.[1] The Embassy of North Korea in China is located in Beijing's Chaoyang District, while a consulate general is in Shenyang.

China and North Korea have, in the past, enjoyed close diplomatic relations. However, China–North Korea relations have declined markedly over the past few years. The decline in China–North Korea relations is primarily due to growing concern in China over issues such as North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its impoundment of Chinese fishing boats.[2]

Favorable views of North Korea among Chinese people appear to be receding as well. According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 20% of Chinese people view North Korea's influence positively, with 46% expressing a negative view.[3]


Chinese volunteers crossing the Yalu River into North Korea during the Korean War

The People's Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea exchanged diplomatic recognition on 6 October 1949.

In May 1950, Kim Il-sung secretly visited Beijing to brief Mao Zedong and the Chinese leadership on his war plans.[4] Following setbacks sustained by the Korean People's Army and the crossing of the 38th parallel by the United Nations Command, in October 1950 China entered the Korean War in support of North Korea.[5] In addition to dispatching the Chinese People's Volunteers to Korea to fight against the United Nations Command, China also received North Korean refugees and students and provided economic aid during the war.[6] Following the signing of the Korean War Armistice in 1953, China, along with members of the Eastern Bloc led by the Soviet Union, provided extensive economic assistance to Pyongyang to support the reconstruction and economic development of North Korea.[7]

In 1961, the two countries signed the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty, whereby China pledged to immediately render military and other assistance by all means to its ally against any outside attack.[8] This treaty was prolonged twice, in 1981 and 2001, with a validity until 2021.

Since 2003, the PRC has been a participant in six-party talks aimed at resolving the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

On 1 January 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il exchanged greetings and declared 2009 as the "year of China–DPRK friendship", marking 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.[9]

The close China-DPRK relationship is celebrated at the Mass Games in Pyongyang

The Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China Yang Jiechi said that China "resolutely" opposes the latest nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.[10][11] The North Korean ambassador to China, Ji Jae Ryong, was personally informed of this position on 12 February 2013 in a meeting with Yang Jiechi.[10]

On 5 May 2013, North Korea "grabbed", according to Jiang Yaxian, a Chinese government official, another Chinese fishing boat in a series of impounding Chinese fishing boats.[2] "North Korea was demanding 600,000 yuan ($97,600) for its safe return, along with its 16 crew."[2] According to a New York Times article in December 2014, relations had reached a low point.[12]

In 2016, right after the North Korean nuclear test in January tensions between the PRC and the DPRK have further grown, the reaction of China was, "We strongly urge the DPRK side to remain committed to its denuclearization commitment, and stop taking any actions that would make the situation worse," spokesperson Hua Chunying said.[13] On 24 February 2016 the United States and China introduced new sanctions against the North Korean regime conducted within the UN context.[14]

In March 2016 the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a missile factory, which China strongly condemned, in a report by the state newspaper the People's Daily revealed that the North Korean politics causes instability on the Korean Peninsula and is comparable to the situation in Syria.[citation needed]


China and North Korea share a 1,416-kilometer long border that corresponds to the course of the Yalu and Tumen rivers.

In the 1950s and 1960s, many ethnic Koreans in Northeast China crossed the border into North Korea to escape economic hardship and famine in China. In recent years, the flow of refugees has reversed, with a considerable number of North Koreans fleeing to China.[15] Much of China's trade with the DPRK goes through the port of Dandong on the Yalu River.[16]

In February 1997, tourist access to the bridge over the Tumen at Wonjong-Quanhe was allowed.[17]

In May 2012, China and North Korea signed an agreement on the construction and management of the cross-border bridge between Manpo in the Jagang Province of North Korea and Jian in China.[18]

In 2015, a single rogue North Korean soldier killed four ethnic Korean citizens of China who lived along the border of China with North Korea.[19]

Economic relations[edit]

Trucks queued waiting for the border crossing between Quanhe and Wonjong to open.

China's economic assistance to North Korea accounts for about half of all Chinese foreign aid. Beijing provides the aid directly to Pyongyang, thereby enabling it to bypass the United Nations.

During the period of severe food shortage between 1996 and 1998, Beijing provided unconditional food aid to North Korea.[20]


China is North Korea's largest trade partner, while North Korea ranked 82nd on the list of China's trade partners (2009 estimate) China provides about half of all North Korean imports and received a quarter of its exports.

Year 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Trade turnover (million$) 549.646 565.652 656.021 407.750 370.356 488.053 737.457 738.172 1,023.541 1,376.718 1,581.234 1,699.604 1,973.974 2,787.278 2,680.767


By 2011 trade had increased to $5.6 billion (₩5.04 trillion).[22] Trade with China represents 57% of North Korea's imports and 42% of its exports. Chinese statistics for 2013 indicate that North Korean exports to China were nearly $3 billion, with imports of about $3.6 billion.[23]

In February 2017, China restricted all coal imports from North Korea until 2018. This is considered to be extremely harmful to the North Korean economy with coal being the top export of the nation and China being their top trading partner. It is speculated that this occurred because of a mix of events, including recent nuclear tests, the suspected assassination of Kim Jong-nam and pressure on China from the rest of the world to stop supplying a controversial state.[24][25][26]


On 7 May 2013, Bank of China, China's biggest foreign exchange bank and other Chinese banks closed the account of North Korea's main foreign exchange bank.[27]


In 2012, a $45 million investment by China's Haicheng Xiyang Group into an iron-ore powder processing plant failed under what the Chinese called "a nightmare".[28] On February 21, 2016 China quietly ended financial support of North Korea without any media publicity. It is reported to be due to the fallout of relations between the two governments.[29]

Military relations[edit]

Chinese soldiers at the Battle of Triangle Hill in 1952, during the Korean War.

During the Korean War from 1950–53, China assisted North Korea, sending as many as 3 million soldiers,[30] known as the People's Volunteer Army, to support North Korean forces fighting the South Korean and UN on the Korean peninsula. As many as 180,000 Chinese soldiers were killed.[30]

Since the end of the Korean conflict, the two states have closely cooperated in security and defense issues. In 1975, Kim Il-sung visited Beijing in a failed attempt to solicit support from China for a military invasion of South Korea.[31] On 23 November 2009, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie visited Pyongyang, the first defense chief to visit since 2006.[32]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Embassy of People's Republic of China in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  2. ^ a b c Jourdan, Adam (19 May 2013). "China seeks release of fishing boat seized by North Korea". Reuters. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Embassy & Consulate of D.P.R.K. (North Korea) in China," Travel China Guide
  4. ^ Kathryn Weathersby, "New Russian Documents on the Korean War," Cold War International History Project Bulletin 6/7 (Winter 1995): 40–84.
  5. ^ "Q&A: China-North Korea Relationship", New York Times, 13 July 2006.
  6. ^ Adam Cathcart and Charles Kraus, "The Bonds of Brotherhood: New Evidence on Sino-North Korean Exchanges, 1950–1954," Journal of Cold War Studies 13, no. 3 (2011): 27–51
  7. ^ Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia (2012), "China and the Postwar Reconstruction of North Korea, 1953–1961," NKIDP Working Paper #4.
  8. ^ Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance between the People's Republic of China and the Democrati People's Republic of Korea, 11 July 1967: Article II: In the event of one of the Contracting Parties being subjected to the armed attack by any state or several states jointly and thus being involved in a state of war, the other Contracting Party shall immediately render military and other assistance by all means at its disposal. (一旦缔约一方受到任何一个国家的或者几个国家联合的武装进攻,因而处于战争状态时,缔约另一方应立即尽其全力给予军事及其他援助)
  9. ^ Xinhua, "Chinese, DPRK leaders exchange congratulatory messages on the launch of friendship year", 1 January 2009.
  10. ^ a b Xu Weiwei (13 February 2013). "China 'firmly' opposes North Korea's nuclear test". The Morning Whistle. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  11. ^ "China opposes DPRK's nuclear test". 
  12. ^ Perlez, Jane (20 December 2014). "Chinese Annoyance With North Korea Bubbles to the Surface". New York Times. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "China firmly opposes DPRK's nuclear test". Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 6 January 2016. 
  14. ^ "US and China make 'progress' on N Korea sanctions". BBC News. Retrieved 8 April 2016. 
  15. ^ Hazel Smith (2012), "Explaining North Korean Migration to China," NKIDP e-Dossier no. 11.
  16. ^ Lee, Chang-hak. "China’s Trade with N.K. Via Dandong Exceeds US $200 million", KOTRA, 21 February 2003.
  17. ^ Davies, Ian (2000). Regional Co-operation in Northeast Asia The Tumen River Area Development Program, 1990–2000: In Search of a model for regional economic co-operation in Northeast Asia. North Pacific policy papers, 4. Vancouver: Program on Canada-Asia Policy Studies Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia. ISBN 978-0-88865-740-4. 
  18. ^ "Sino-North Korean Bridge Deal Sealed", Daily NK, 11 May 2012.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Scott Snyder, "China’s Evolving Economic and Political Relations with North Korea," in China’s Rise and the Two Koreas (Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.: Colorado, USA, 2009), pp. 118–21.
  21. ^ Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China
  22. ^ "N. Korea's China trade nearly triples in 4 years". China Post. 2012-12-28. Retrieved 2014-01-07. 
  23. ^ Aidan Foster-Carter (20 February 2014). "South Korea has lost the North to China". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  24. ^ "China piles pressure on North Korea..." via the BBC
  25. ^ "China to suspend coal imports..." via Al Jazeera
  26. ^ "China suspends North Korea coal imports..." via the Washington Post
  27. ^ "Bank of China Closes Account of Key North Korean Bank". Reuters. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  28. ^ "North Korea Blasts Chinese Company in Failed Deal". Reuters. 5 September 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b "180,000 Chinese soldiers killed in Korean War". China Daily. 28 June 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  31. ^ "East German Documents on Kim Il Sung's April 1975 Trip to Beijing", NKIDP e-Dossier No. 7, May 2012.
  32. ^ Associated Press, "China’s Defense Minister Travels to North Korea", The China Post, 23 November 2009.

External links[edit]