It is vital for the international community to increase pressure in unison on North Korea to prevent it from making military provocations. China should not break this encirclement because of self-serving reasons.
The United Nations Security Council has stopped short of issuing a statement condemning North Korea's firing of what are believed to be Rodong ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan earlier this month.
The Security Council talks broke down because China sought to include in the statement, drafted mainly by Japan and the United States, wording that warns against the United States' planned deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) - its most advanced missile defense system - at its military base in South Korea.
North Korea's ballistic missile launches also violate Security Council sanctions resolutions. This is especially the case with the latest launch, in which a missile fired by Pyongyang fell into waters inside Japan's exclusive economic zone for the first time. This is an extremely dangerous provocation.
Serious alarm has been raised over the Security Council, which has become dysfunctional. If its failure to issue a statement of condemnation sends North Korea the wrong message, the country could conduct further provocations. This is a severe situation for Japan.
An alarming stance
China's stance, of placing higher priority on opposing the THAAD deployment than on deterring North Korea's provocations, is alarming. Since the United States and South Korea agreed on the deployment in July, the Security Council has failed to adopt a statement of condemnation about North Korea's series of ballistic missile launches.
China has claimed that the deployment would undermine the security interests of countries in the region, including itself. It apparently fears its military's movements would be the subject of surveillance by THAAD radars. Russia also opposes the deployment.
We suspect China's hesitance to impose sanctions that could destabilize North Korea's regime is the major reason behind Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development.
The aim of the THAAD deployment is to respond to North Korea's growing threats. China's backlash, in which it says this would increase regional tensions, is misdirected.
It is also concerning that on the economic front, China - which has served as an economic lifeline for North Korea - has made moves to further water down the sanction measures.
China-North Korea trade rebound
Following the U.N. sanctions resolution adopted in March after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test and made other provocations, trade between China and North Korea rebounded in June. Bilateral economic exchanges have also reportedly increased.
As a Security Council permanent member, China must not forget that it has a duty to ensure the full implementation of North Korea sanctions resolutions, which call for Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile development.
The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping has started taking measures against South Korea as a result of its approval of the THAAD deployment. Chinese authorities have tightened rules for issuing business visas to South Koreans. An event for fans of South Korean TV dramas scheduled to be held in Beijing was also canceled.
China apparently aims to shake the administration of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and break the unity of Japan, the United States and South Korea.
Close cooperation among the three countries is vital for regional stability.