Scobell gave a talk based on his new edited book PLA Influence on China's National Security Policymaking (Stanford University Press, 2015) [with Phillip Saunders]. Professor Scobell noted that China and the PLA struggle to influence the DPRK and maintained that China is unlikely to change its North Korean policy. Stability both inside China and on its periphery is the highest priority of China's leaders today. The PLA and China's Communist Party agree on overall Korea policy and with keeping the DPRK as a buffer state.
Scobell argued that the PLA's tools and influence vary at different stages of the policymaking process and according to the spectrum of policy issues. In the policymaking process the PLA appears to have more influence over pre-decision and implementation than at the decision stage. It also seems that the PLA has more influence on purely military issues than in the past—but less influence on purely political issues—and is more actively engaged in policy debates on mixed civil-military issues where military equities are at stake.
Scobell further discussed the recent policy adjustments and China's support of UN sanctions against the DPRK in the aftermath of North Korea's nuclear test and its long-range missile launch in 2016. He argued that both external and internal factors, with domestic politics and the role of public opinion as the core diver, have led to certain changes in policy. Nonetheless, China has consistently maintained one "red line" with regards to the Korean peninsula: "China will not allow war or instability on the Korean Peninsula".
Report by Øystein Tunsjø