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With North Korea beating its chest, China has to step in

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a ceremony to award party and state commendations in the wake of what Mr. Kim claimed was a successful hydrogen bomb test on January 13.

KCNA/Reuters

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is, by any reasonable measure of statesmanship, a buffoon. But that doesn't mean his latest provocation is mere amusement.

No, the neo-Stalinist hermit kingdom is not in a position to deliver on its vow to indiscriminately lob nuclear weapons at U.S. and South Korean forces who are undertaking large-scale military manoeuvres in the region.

North Korea does, however, remain bent on developing its rudimentary nuclear weapons technology.

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The global stage is a crowded place, and Mr. Kim's latest threat should serve as a reminder that, while threats from terrorism and extremist organizations like Daesh are real, we ought not to be concerned about them disproportionately.

Nuclear proliferation poses a far more dire menace than any terrorist group.

In the case of North Korea, only one global power holds the key to a solution: China.

Decades of trade sanctions have failed to topple the Kim dynasty. A simple decision by China, the only nation that approaches the status of ally and trading partner, would succeed. All it needs to do is open the border to refugees.

It's hard to project power when citizens flee by the millions, as they assuredly would, given the deprivations of North Korean life.

The Chinese have little appetite for allowing their neighbour's nuclear ambitions to run unchecked – they condemned reports of a hydrogen bomb test earlier this year with unusual vigour and claimed to be committed to a "denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula.

That said, Beijing has not taken kindly to formal talks to implement American anti-missile technology in South Korea (Russia is also opposed).

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Canada remains a relative minnow in global affairs. But the modest international renown conferred on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will travel to Washington for an official state dinner this week, presents an opportunity.

Nudging the Chinese to intercede more meaningfully in North Korea will require a broad international effort. Insofar as it's possible for Canada to play a role in mustering support, it should.

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