Although China officially supports unification of the Korean Peninsula, it essentially maintains a two Koreas policy. Beijing sustains this approach because even as the burdens and dangers of the status quo on the peninsula increase, it judges that the risks of unification are potentially greater. Nevertheless, China’s growing economic and political clout along with the strengthening of its ties with South Korea are boosting Beijing’s confidence that it can protect Chinese interests regardless of developments on the peninsula. The more permissible environment in recent years regarding discussion of Chinese policy toward the Koreas has engendered a robust debate among Chinese researchers about the potential costs and benefits for China of Korean unification. The ROK and the U.S. should consider ways to influence China’s cost/benefit calculus regarding Korean unification. No single step is likely to alter China’s approach, but an accumulation of measures aimed at easing Chinese fears and reducing the uncertainties associated with unification could have an impact on Chinese thinking and policies over time.
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