The door of Air Force One in South Korea had not yet been properly slammed behind US President Joe Biden when the North Korean regime in Pyongyang launched a missile test over the peninsula. Such an escalation was to be expected. North Korea is out of control. And China?

The 80-year-old politician Joe Biden made the trip to East Asia to meet the elected representatives of Japan, South Korea, India and Australia and to discuss with them the changed security situation, which emanates from an increasingly aggressive and belligerent China for the region. The People’s Republic and North Korea are allies. It is therefore not unfair to suggest that Kim Jong-un conducted his tests with the knowledge and approval of China.

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Among the test missiles launched was an ICBM missile, which has a range of 5,000 kilometers and is capable of carrying nuclear warheads. North Korea’s nuclear program is causing concern worldwide, since Pyongyang, otherwise unimportant in geopolitics, would have enormous leverage against the international community.

Actually, the People’s Republic should also be worried about vigorously supporting an aspiring nuclear power next door. However, people in Beijing think that they can control Kim and therefore need not fear his nuclear weapons. Like China, North Korea is targeting the United States and its allies. Above all, Pyongyang wants US troops, who have remained on the peninsula since the 1951-53 Korean War to protect the people from the communists in the north, to leave South Korea.

Alexander Görlach is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York. The PhD linguist and theologian teaches democratic theory in Germany, Austria and Spain as an honorary professor at Leuphana University. In the 2017-18 academic year, he was at National Taiwan University and City University Hong Kong to conduct research on China’s rise. He is currently researching new technologies at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute and how they are used in democracies and abused in dictatorships.

The dent in the relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang seems to have been forgotten: in 2018 and 2019 there was a certain rapprochement between North Korea and the United States in the course of talks on de-nuclearization of the peninsula. The regime even called its Chinese neighbor a “thousand-year enemy”. Beijing then left no stone unturned to guide Kim back into its orbit. A permanent US presence on the Korean peninsula is a thorn in Beijing’s side. Pyongyang was ready, even for a brief moment, back in 2018-19 to contemplate that possibility. The fact that the isolated country obtains around 90 percent of its imports from China may ultimately have been the decisive factor in further close cooperation with the People’s Republic to the detriment of the United States.

Bitterly poor North Korea, which is being swept up in a wave of Covid-19 that the leadership is affectionately calling a “fever,” has stolen around $50 million in cryptocurrencies to fund its costly missile and nuclear program, according to a BBC report . The leader in Pyongyang is obsessed with military prowess and the illusion that he is in charge of an important country. Meanwhile, his subjects are starving, have no access to clean drinking water or cannot see a doctor because there is simply no medical infrastructure.

China, too, is currently struggling with a severe Covid 19 outbreak, which is severely slowing down its economy and has finally cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Communist Party among parts of the population. Nevertheless, there is enough time in Beijing to applaud the neighboring regime for its missile tests: “China shares Pyongyang’s attitude towards the USA,” said Beijing. There, the missile tests are seen as a kind of countermeasure that the United States was forced to take for its military alliance with South Korea.

From the Solomon Islands to the Philippines, the People’s Republic is trying to ban the USA and policies that conform to the treaty and rule-based trade from this region of the world. Beijing has therefore started territorial disputes with more than 15 countries. The calculus is likely to be to advance their own unfair intentions in the region in the slipstream of the attention that the world must now muster for North Korea again.