BEIJING — China has the economic tools to pressure North Korea but fears pushing Kim Jong Un’s government so hard it collapses.
Though China has long been the North’s main trading partner and diplomatic protector, Kim’s nuclear and missile tests have alienated Chinese leaders, who supported last month’s U.N. sanctions that slash North Korean revenue by banning sales of coal and iron ore. President Donald Trump and others have called on China to use its leverage to do more to halt the North’s nuclear development.
Beijing tried to head off the latest nuclear test, conducted Sunday, by warning Pyongyang that such an event would lead to even more painful penalties.
Still, Chinese leaders worry about instability on the Korean Peninsula if Kim’s regime collapses, which would eliminate a buffer between China and South Korea, a heavily armed U.S. ally with American troops on its soil. Some of the options
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