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Globe editorial: When it comes to stopping North Korea, China holds the key

It's very likely that Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea, was trying to get the attention of President Donald Trump, in his latest medium-range nuclear missile test, with the claim that a North Korean long-range, intercontinental missile is well under way.

If so, it was futile. Kim Jong-un doesn't have anything Mr. Trump wants or needs from impoverished North Korea. This threat will not send him scurrying to Mr. Kim to seek some kind of deal.

Even so, North Korea is dangerous enough that Mr. Trump would be wise to engage with President Xi Jinping of China to try to persuade Mr. Kim against continuing his nuclear-weapons program.

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Because right now Mr. Kim has only one plausible interlocutor, and only one major economic partner: China, with 70 per cent of its trade.

A North Korean émigré, Hyeonseo Lee, the author of a new book called The Girl with Seven Names, has rightly said in an interview with the Financial Times that "China has all the keys right now. On unification, China also has the answer. So if China wants North Korea to completely end, if China stops supporting North Korea, within one week or 10 days, they can make North Korea chaos."

Adds Ms. Lee says, "Many people in the past, they never predicted German reunification, but it did happen very abruptly" – in fact, thanks to a minor East German official who didn't realize what he was doing when he opened the Berlin Wall.

China could open its borders to North Korean refugees, thereby fatally weakening the Kim regime. And it could use its economic weight to inflict damage, too.

But while China does its share of denouncing North Korea's nuclear-weapons program, it doesn't do anything remotely enough to actually end it.

It is difficult to assess just how advanced the North Korean nuclear-weapons program is. But the Kim dynasty counts on it so heavily for their own survival that the weapons program is clearly much more advanced than most people would imagine from such an extremely poor country otherwise.

The world is at risk from such a strange combination of poverty and high technology. And China is the key to the solution.

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