China not Eager to Help US Punish North Korea

US seeks the help of China in punishing North Korea for hacking Sony Inc., a factor that may break the geopolitics of region and hopefully ease the tension between Washington and Beijing on cyber matters.

Last week, President Obama vaguely promised that Whitehouse would retaliate proportionately against the hack at Sony Inc. True to his word, North Korea experienced an Internet blackout throughout Monday, although US official declined to confirm whether US was behind the internet sabotage. Not that North Korea has any internet worth talking about, but a national wide cut off from the worldwide grid  indicates Whitehouse is keen on punishing Sony’s attackers’

In reality, punishing North Korea is easy said than done, especially at a time when Economic sanction, US secret weapon against rogue states, would fail miserably. This is partly because North Korea has literally no shared Economic interest with US and partly because Russia or China will double the leverage for every single Sanction America slaps on Koreans. In this case Washington has few available punishments for Kim Jing Un’s administration, no wonder State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, said while some responses from Whitehouse “will be seen, some may not be seen.”

Whether visible or invisible, no punitive action will succeed against North Korea without the involvement of Beijing. “North Korea can’t exist without Chinese help,” says Thomas Henriksen, the author of America and the Rogue States. “They provide the fuel they burn, they provide the food, and they provide all kinds of diplomatic interference at the U.N.”

US officials have already asked Beijing to pile pressure on Kim Jong Un’s administration and flush out North Korea hackers coordinating attacks from China. We are yet to witness any decisive action from China, but an article at Washingtonpost on Monday confirmed that China has initiated an independent probe on the matter.

That notwithstanding, it is highly unlikely China will team up with US to punish its traditional ally considering the deep rooted relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang.   Actually, the whole incident puts the Chinese government in a very difficult position. On one hand, China is willing to cooperate with US in ending cyber aggression in order to ease tension between the two countries, while on the other hand teaming up with US would mean losing the allegiance of North Korea to Russia, a luxury china can’t afford.  “The Russians see an opportunity here, see, to skewer the United States, to twist the eagle’s feathers,” says Henriksen.

On Tuesday, China signaled its reluctance to be enjoined in the tussle between US and North Korea. A spokesman from Beijing said there was no evidence that Kim Jong Un’s administration sponsored the attack on Sony and also denied any Chinese involvement in the Internet blackout that engulfed North Korea on Monday.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said China needs “sufficient evidence before drawing any conclusion” about cyber assault on Sony.  “This kind of reporting has no factual basis. It is speculative and pure assumption. It is not trustworthy at all,” said Hua, commenting on the various reports that have linked Un’s administration to Sony’s Hack “The reporting itself is irresponsible, nonprofessional and misleading.”

Hua further retaliated China’s commitment to ending cyber-terrorism globally. “China is against all forms of cyberattacks and cyberterrorism, including cyberattacks launched by any country or individual by using facilities beyond its own national borders against a third country,” she said.

Other experts from Beijing also believe China will avoid being entangled in US woes partly because the whole incident is based speculation and non-factual reporting from US entities and partly because China has a long history of protecting its allies. “The conclusion that North Korea attacked Sony is based on inference. So is the conclusion that the United States attacked North Korea. The incidents have not been proved yet,” said Shen Yi, an associate professor in the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University.

Whether US succeeds in Punishing North Korea or not, Sony’s hack will definitely impact the Geopolitics of the Pacific. We are more likely to witness new alignments in the future with North Korea teaming up with embattled Russia while for the first time China may see eye to eye with America on cyber matters.

Top/Featured Image: By Kok Leng Yeo / Wikipedia (

Ali Qamar Ali Qamar is a seasoned blogger and loves keeping a keen eye on the future of tech. He is a geek. He is a privacy enthusiast and advocate. He is crazy (and competent) about internet security, digital finance, and technology. Ali is the founder of PrivacySavvy and an aspiring entrepreneur.
Leave a Comment