What remains unknown is at what point, if any, Beijing’s calculus may shift away from North Korea. Chinese actions such as the cessation of oil exports may be a signal of such a major move—or may be due to mundane considerations such as maintenance issues. Xi Jinping may seize the opportunity to demonstrate new thinking in Beijing—or he may be reluctant to risk such a radical break. But as the region awaits the prospect of a North Korean nuclear test, how Beijing responds may provide an indication of future trends.
Dean Cheng is a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center.