A commemorative stamp featuring North korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) meeting in 2018 through China’s Xi Jinping (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)

Sixty years have passed since the China-North Korea treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and also Mutual assistance was signed top top 11 July 1961. Top top the anniversary this month, China’s president Xi Jinping and North korean chairman Kim Jong-un pledged to renew the treaty for an additional 20 years, together China and also North Korea had prior to in 1981 and 2001.

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But the rejuvenation was not guaranteed. Chinese scholars had actually deemed Pyongyang to it is in in breach of treaty when it claimed itself a nuclear power without consulting with China. China-North Korea relations likewise deteriorated in 2017 when Beijing enforced United countries sanctions ~ above Pyongyang together a punishment because that its nuclear and also missile tests. Phibìc Korea, for its part, stirred anti-China sentiment within its population and criticised China publicly. The allies started to repair fences through Kim’s first visit come China in in march 2018, and the treaty regeneration is the result of that process of reconciliation.

While that is frequently assumed that mutual geopolitical interests tie China and North Korea together, the shared ideological worths of single-party claims of a Communist/Workers’ Party must not it is in ignored in explaining the enduring alliance. The prestige of ideology deserve to be seen in the various fate that befell the Soviet Union‒North Korea alliance at the finish of the Cold War.


Importantly, inter-party relations continue to exist alongside the inter-state component.


North Korea signed alliance treaties with China and the Soviet Union in 1961 mere work apart, together its former President Kim Il-sung wanted to make use of the Sino-Soviet break-up to his benefit. The Soviet Union and also China shared ideological values and also security interests through North Korea, together single-party Communist says opposed come the united state imperialism. However Beijing and Moscow to be at the moment vying for affect in smaller sized Communist states and willing come outbid each other. For that reason, both the Sino and Soviet alliance treaties through North Korea were comparable in content, especially the appointment to assist North Korea if it were attacked. The spirit of socialist internationalism was likewise embedded in the two treaties alongside geopolitical concerns, and this underpinned Soviet and also Chinese appointment to aid build North oriental socialism.

However, the fallen of the Soviet Union took the common ideology the end of the Soviet-North Korea alliance. The brand-new Russian federal government subsequently downgraded that ties with North Korea and also did not renew the alliance contract in 1995.


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The commemorative statue of Kim Il-sung at Mansu Hill, Pyongyang, in 2010. A second statue of Kim Jong-il was added after 2011. (Roman Harak/Flickr)

Russia and North Korea rather inked the contract of Friendship, good Neighbourliness, and also Cooperation in 2000 to replace the 1961 treaty, however the i on automatic military assistance in case of attack was removed. In the place, the two countries only agree come consult each other in the occasion of danger. The new clause was intentionally designed to it is in vague to free Russia of any kind of concrete obligations while still permitting it to influence Korean affairs. Remarkably, the new Russia-North Korea relationship was no longer based upon “socialist internationalism” yet resembled common inter-state relations.

This is not the situation with regard come the China-North Korea alliance, back Pyongyang was upset v Beijing’s decision in the early on 1990s to normalise ties with south Korea, as had actually the Kremlin. Bilateral relations in between China and also North Korea also soured in the mid 1990s, but Beijing and Pyongyang did not renounce the alliance treaty because that they continued to re-superstructure the need to maintain North Korea’s routine stability and also survival. In 2001, China and also North Korea revitalized an exchange of high-level visits with Chinese chairman Jiang Zemin’s expedition to phibìc Korea.

Importantly, inter-party relations proceed to exist together the inter-state component. Joint diplomatic statements emphasised the duty of classic party-to-party ties, and also that China especially supports the oriental Workers’ Party, not just the North korean government, ~ above its path to a socialist economy. The party-to-party ties are absent in Russia-North Korea interactions.

When it comes to security matters, China do clear that it would protect North Korea if the united States and South Korea assaulted it first, also when Beijing was imposing penalty on Pyongyang and also the risks of a US-North Korea escalation to be high ago in 2017. This is in line v the Chinese government’s commitment to only assist North Korea if the phibìc is subjected to armed attack under short article II the the Treaty. That is likewise worth noting that China’s alliance v North Korea is Beijing’s single formal protection commitment.

The endurance the the China-North Korea alliance can be explained by the persistence that single-party state solution in China and also North Korea, and shared geopolitical interests versus a US visibility in the region. This is in stark comparison with Russia’s pass out pledge come cooperate with North Korea if contingencies arise after the Soviet single-party mechanism collapsed.

With the China-North Korea alliance renewed, the strength dynamics on the Korea peninsula look set to follow a acquainted pattern. China will certainly leverage that alliance with North Korea to avoid Pyongyang native provoking a major crisis, when dangling the hazard of a Chinese treatment to moderate united state ambitions. Phibìc Korea will proceed to count on Chinese economic assistance, especially when to recover from the pandemic, and assume Chinese protection while advancing its nuclear program.

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As Kim and Xi placed it, opposing imperialism and building socialism underpins the significance of the treaty renewal.