The U.S. and North Korea have reached a tentative arms deal. Simon World, where "East Meets Westerner," asks "Why now?":
China's role in North Korea talks, Simon World: After years of failed talks, finally agreement is reached with North Korea over its nukes. The onus remains on the North Koreans to live up to their end of the bargain, but that's by the by. Far more interesting is what happened to force the issue? Why now? The North Koreans are lavishing praise on their Chinese hosts. China's leadership remains petrified of a collapse of North Korea and the massive influx of refugees likely should that happen. Nor did it fancy the alternative of a potential American led invasion, leading to American troops literally on the border. China has always held the whip hand in the talks. For example China supplies most of North Korea's electricity at friendly rates. Having North Korea annoy the Americans served as a useful foil for China and it kept Japanese and South Korean minds focussed on the threat from the North Koreans rather than any possible threat from China. But more recently both America and Japan have started viewing the potential strategic threat from China as a seperate issue from the Korean one. The North Korean problem turned from an asset to a liability. So China saw the light, so to speak, and realised a resolution of the Korean nuclear issue was also in its interest. It doesn't hurt that this makes the Chinese look like world statesmen and foreign policy players (albeit in their own backyard), just as negotiations over the UN Security Council and talks about China's emerging superpower role are all the rage. It's no co-incidence that as soon as China got serious about the nuclear talks, so did North Korea. The key question is whether China can make the North Koerans deliver on their promises given the deserved scepticism that abounds.
Further Reading: Chris has a good summary of various reactions to the North Korea deal. Sean says Japan isn't entirely happy with the results. North Korean talks leave questions unanswered. The full text of the statement at the end of the talks.