In January 2011, the United States signed an agreement with the People’s Republic of China establishing the Center of Excellence in Nuclear Security (CoE) in China. The agreement allows the U.S. Department of Energy and the Chinese Atomic Energy Authority to collaborate in the field of nuclear innovation and security, with a special emphasis on training. According to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, “This agreement reflects the commitment of the two governments to strengthen their cooperation in nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear security, and in combating nuclear terrorism and represents a major step forward in implementing the global nuclear security outlined by our two Presidents (1).”
In March 2016, the U.S. and China reinforced the ties formed through the CoE by releasing a joint statement announcing their intent to continue to join forces in nuclear security. The statement outlines a handful of focal points for the U.S. and China, including the development of more advanced nuclear reactors, initiatives to counter nuclear smuggling by terrorist organizations, and preventative measures to reduce the dangers associated with nuclear radioactivity (2).
When asked about the security relationship between the U.S. and China following a series of nuclear summit meetings in March, President Barack Obama said that the two countries are particularly dedicated to the “denuclearization” of North Korea (3). However, in light of the unfriendly history between the U.S. and North Korea, attempts at stabilizing the Korean Peninsula have proved difficult. Although the United Nations Security Council has already issued several sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear program beginning in 2003, North Korea has continued to display nuclear aggression ever since the U.S. used nuclear threats against the regime in the Korean War (4). Nonetheless, President Obama has expressed that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are looking to the UN to enforce further sanctions on North Korea (3). Despite the U.S. and China’s collaboration and the support they have received from the UN against North Korea, North Korea continues to push back, conducting more missile tests in violation of the UN sanctions. In an informal letter vilifying China’s involvement with the sanctions, the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of North Korea reportedly called for an unabashed nuclear confrontation with China (3). According to North Korean foreign minister Lee Su-Yong, “In response to the U.S. frenzied hysteria for unleashing a nuclear war…we state resolutely about the readiness to deliver a pre-emptive nuclear strike (3).” For the U.S. and the international polity as a whole to remain strong in the face of North Korea’s hostility, it is crucial that China participate in spite of the nuclear threats. Only with serious pressure from China, North Korea’s most important trading partner, can the UN hope for some compliance from North Korea (5).
(1) "U.S., China Sign Agreement to Establish Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security." Nnsa.energy.gov. The National Nuclear Security Administration, 19 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 June 2016. <https://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/chinacenterofexcellence01.19.11>.
(2) "U.S.-China Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation." Whitehouse.gov. The White House, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/03/31/us-china-joint-statement-nuclear-security-cooperation>.
(3) Sandhu, Serina. "North Korea Threatens 'Nuclear Storm' Against China as Ally Makes Pact with US." The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-and-china-agree-to-oppose-north-korea-nuclear-programme-a6962901.html>.
(4) "North Korea." Nti.org. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, Apr. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea/nuclear/>.
(5) Gaffey, Conor. "North Korea Fires Another Missile as U.S. and China Agree to Cooperate on Nuclear Threat." Newsweek.com. Newsweek, 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 10 June 2016. <http://www.newsweek.com/north-korea-missile-barack-obama-xi-jinping-442899>.
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