China has always been a security blanket for North Korea's vicious leaders. The great fear of South Korea, the United States and other nations tempted to act militarily against Pyongyang is that China would intervene as it did during the Korean War.
But U.S. diplomatic efforts in the wake of the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel by a North Korean submarine seem to be paying off. During the weekend, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered formal condolences to South Korea.
He added that China would "defend no one" responsible for the attack.
That is a gigantic, unmistakable signal by Beijing that Chinese leaders have become frustrated by North Korean aggressiveness.
Is it a green light for military action against North Korea? Absolutely not - but that is what the United States and South Korea are trying to avoid, anyway.
Efforts to keep China on our side in the dispute with North Korea should be intensified. If China takes an unequivocal stand against North Korean militarism, Pyongyang may be forced to back away from its arms buildup and its belligerent policies.