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Chinese nuclear umbrella: first Ukraine, next North Korea?

The JoongAng Ilbo reports that China has just gotten into the nuclear umbrella business, pledging to provide security assurances to Ukraine if it is threatened with nuclear attack.

Now, the English-language Xinhua report on the summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych didn’t seem to mention it, but this English-language summary of a Global Times report does:

The statement consists of six points. In Point one, China promises to provide nuclear security assurances to Ukraine.

It states: “According to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 984 and the Chinese government statement on providing security assurances to Ukraine dated December 4, 1994, China undertakes unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine as a non-nuclear country and to provide corresponding security assurances to Ukraine when Ukraine suffers or is threatened with invasion with nuclear weapon.

According to the JoongAng Ilbo report, experts believe the Chinese move may have North Korea in mind. The argument goes that if China is able to provide a credible nuclear umbrella to states like North Korea, it could reduce the need felt by Pyongyang to develop its own nuclear deterrent, and so contribute to regional security.

Honestly, I don’t really think North Korea’s nuclear program is as much about deterrence as it is about shaking down its neighbors and the United States for cash. I’m sure they’d appreciate the Chinese gesture, regardless. It would say something about Chinese diplomacy, though, if out of 193 sovereign states, the first states to get nuclear protection are Yanukovych’s Ukraine and North Korea. Could Syria be far behind?

UPDATE: Tweets Joshua H. Pollack:

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  • Koreandumbdumb

    WWIII. Nuclear war.

  • TheCorean

    American nuclear umbrella has holes in it, sure. I wonder if the Chinese one even opens.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    But if NK is included under China’s nuclear umbrella, does it necessarily mean NK would give up its own nuclear program? The program is all about extorting money – it has nothing to do with deterrence (the US/SK wouldn’t need nukes to dismantle NK). We’ll see…

  • Dokdoforever

    A Chinese nuclear umbrella for the Ukraine…Right.. That’s got to go down as one of the least credible threats to use nuclear weapons ever. China is going to retaliate with nuclear weapons against Russia or the US, and is willing to be nuked in return, sacrificing the people of Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, etc, for the sake of the Ukraine?? All for a country of nearly no strategic interest to China?

    How self-defeating. Is anyone now going to believe China if they also try to extend a nuclear umbrella to N Korea? Nukes are only as useful as the credibility of the threat to use them. China actually invites aggression with that type of cheap talk.