Nuclear North Korea: 6 ways it differs from Iran

Are there lessons from the recently negotiated agreement to scale down Iran's nuclear program that can be used in North Korea? Perhaps, but the two differ substantially. Some questions  – and answers – on the North Korean and Iranian programs:

6. What about China's role?

Jason Lee/Reuters/File
China's President Xi Jinping stands next to a Chinese national flag during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, in this November 13, 2013 file photograph.

The role of China is another huge difference between North Korea and Iran. North Korea is in effect a Chinese protectorate and a buffer between China and US- allied countries in Asia. Japan and South Korea, though not on good terms with each other, are bound to the US by separate security alliances under which US forces are stationed in both countries. China’s overwhelming economic and military support of North Korea means that China can try to rein in North Korean power ambitions in the interests of “stability” on the Korean peninsula. At the same time, China has mining investments in North Korea that are a source of funds for Pyongyang and another reason for China not to undermine the regime. Iran, a Shiite Muslim country frequently at odds with many of its Sunni-majority neighbors, has no such equivalent ally. 

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