Many people in the United States including Donald Trump hold the view that China has the levers to control the North Korean regime. This was the standard U.S. policy for close to seven decades. Is this true? There is substantial evidence that brings out that Kim Jong-un, has a strained relationship with China and he has been curtailing Chinese influence in his country. The Koreans, for centuries, have been distrustful of the Chinese who at one time colonized Korea.

Kim Jong-un is wary of his big neighbor as he has the example of China going to war with Vietnam in 1979 when 300,000 Chinese troops invaded Vietnam.

China attacked a close ally, one which it had supported since the early 1950s — underlined the fact that ultimately it cannot be trusted.

The War of Dragons

The Sino-Vietnamese War showed to Pyongyang that China was a ruthless power and it would go to any lengths to look after its perceived national interest. For over two decades, from 1950 to 1975, China had provided Vietnam with more than $20 billion in economic and military aid. It also dispatched political and military advisors to help support the war against the French and later the Americans. However, Sino-Vietnamese relations quickly deteriorated in the middle of the 1970s and China felt it needed to “teach Vietnam a lesson.” This led to an invasion of Vietnam, though in the bargain they suffered heavy casualties.

The Legacy of the Sino-Vietnamese War

The Sino-Vietnamese War has left a deep impression on North Korea and it is clear to Kim Jong-un that China would not hesitate to use force to advance its national interests. It has already sided partially with the U.S. by tightening the screws on the North with a trade embargo as per the Security Council resolution.

The North Koreans have realized that China could tighten the screws further to get a more lucrative trade deal with the US.

Not a puppet of China

The Korean dictator knows that if China could turn against Vietnam, it could very well turn against him. In such a scenario, the nuclear weapons’ he has are his security not only against the U.S.

but also against China. In all likelihood, he will never give up his weapons or stop further testing. The U.S. and Trump must factor in the deep antagonism between the Korean people and China and draw lessons from history. Kim Jong-un is a nationalist and he may very well end up as the Ho- Chi- Minh of North Korea. He is not a puppet of China and Donald Trump must think on these lines. Mollycoddling to China may not bring the desired results.