This study investigates, using statistical analysis and case evidence, whether cooperative China–DPRK relations or China’s rise influence the DPRK to act more aggressively toward the ROK–U.S. Statistically, amicable China–DPRK ties have a positive association with the number of DPRK’s aggressive actions toward the ROK–U.S. The increase in China–DPRK’s material capability relative to that of the ROK–U.S. also positively affected this number. These findings are further supported through case evidence: China’s stance toward the DPRK before and after the sinking of the Cheonan in 2010, and the THAAD incident between the DPRK’s fourth and fifth nuclear tests in 2016.

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