China has started choking off the flow of financial resources entering North Korea by blocking North Korea’s export of natural resources and other industrial products since early 2017. What has pushed Beijing to enforce sanctions strictly, in contrast with its loose administration of sanctions in the past? By employing principal-agent theory, this article shows that Beijing’s conformity to sanctions depends on China’s own need and the degree of pressure from Washington for sanctions enforcement. Until the end of the Obama administration, China did not act meaningfully for sanctions enforcement, as the pressure from Washington was weak and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities remained limited. Now, international contexts have dramatically changed. Beijing feels a need to discipline Pyongyang with sanctions as Pyongyang has become a de facto nuclear weapon state. The new Trump administration in Washington has also pushed Beijing to do more to rein in Pyongyang’s weapon programs.
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- maximum pressure
- North Korea
- strategic patience
- the United States