NYT story noting that, in their respective hours of fear (North Korea over looming famine, South Korea of recent naval ship sinking by North Korea), both sides sent their top leader to China recently for reassurance.
On Friday [30 April], President Lee Myung-bak will travel to China under growing pressure at home to make the case for crucial Chinese support for tough international sanctions against North Korea if, as is widely expected, the North is found responsible for the sinking of a South Korean ship. But he is unlikely to win that support, experts say, a reflection of China’s growing role in the Korean Peninsula.
Since taking office in 2008, Mr. Lee has wound down his predecessors’ “sunshine policy” of aid and engagement with the North, heightening Chinese fears of instability and driving the North into China’s economic embrace. Ultimately, that could give Beijing greater leverage in determining the fate of the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, a situation that many South Koreans would consider to be a nightmare.
“China’s influence has become so important that we can almost say that it can now claim the first and last piece of the apple on the Korean Peninsula,” said Lee Byong-chul, a senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul, using a Korean saying to suggest that China can have whatever it wants.
Even conservatives, who have usually opposed aid to the North, warn of North Korea’s becoming a “Chinese colony” whenever reports circulate of Chinese companies taking over North Korean ports and mines at bargain prices.
All the experts quoted call the "colony" fear overblown, but they're talking about it in a political sense.
In an economic sense, NorKo already is China's colony. China controls 70% of its trade and is locking in the nation's natural resources in a manner that can only be described a colonial in scope and control.
I do agree with the experts on one thing: China will do nothing to destabilize the situation--nothing so long as they get their minerals ($6T worth) in return for their meager aid ($3B a year).