North Korea has denied hacking Sony Pictures email to avenge the studio's not-yet-released movie The Interview, about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (KCNA/Reuters)

Emily Rauhala, Time: China Has Reason to Be Worried About North Korea’s Nukes

The two countries were once as close as lips and teeth, but Beijing is increasingly wary of Pyongyang and Kim Jong Un

In the U.S., North Korea often feels more like of a punchline than a political threat. Coverage of the country skews heavily toward humor, whether it’s news stories about Kim Jong Un’s gravity-defying hair, or Hollywood films that milk North Korean misery for laughs. Have you heard the one about Pyongyang’s weapons program? North Korea’s nuclear missile is almost ready—just a few more trips back to Radio Shack. (Thanks for that, Twitter.)

In East Asia, North Korea is less of a joke than a policy imperative—as we were reminded this week. Reporting published Thursday by the Wall Street Journal suggests that China may be worried—or more worried than normal—about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Citing “people briefed on the matter,” the paper reported that Chinese experts privately advised American nuclear specialists that Pyongyang may have up to 20 warheads, as well as enough weapons-grade uranium to double that number within a year.

WNU Editor: In the past China always had key allies and friends in North Korea's leadership hierarchy. These relations were built over years, and while both countries did not see eye to eye on many issues .... on national security issues they did. This relationship changed when Kim Jong Un started his purges and executions of his closest confidants .... including members of his own family. China no longer has those connections, and because of the purges many are now reluctant in North Korea to step forward and take the place of those who have been executed .... especially in forging new ties with China (or anyone else).

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