After months of effort, the Six Party Talks Beijing convened to defuse the crisis have achieved little. China ﬁnds itself between the intransigence of North Korea and the United States. In this ﬁnely balanced situation, the unexpected revelation that the South has been experimenting with uranium enrichment has refocused international attention on east Asia’s most incendiary problem.
The Korean peninsula has a pivotal role in the politics of northeast Asia where shifts in the geopolitical balance are played out. As the nuclear crisis shows, the interests and policies of China, Japan, Russia and the United States remain crucial in inﬂuencing developments. The issue intersects directly with China-US relations and has serious implications for regional security.
In the absence of a multilateral security framework, Chinese policy towards the North is probably the most important outside factor. But what drives this policy, and what constrains it?