China and Russia share a concern with the evolving political, military, and economic situation on the Korean peninsula, which borders both countries. In terms of relative influence in Pyongyang, however, Beijing enjoys a clearly dominant role, while Moscow often struggles to maintain even a supporting position. One development that might further increase this gap is the abrupt decrease in recent Chinese purchases of Russian defense technologies and weapons systems. The major reason for this transformation has been that the Chinese defense industry has become capable of producing much more sophisticated armaments. Moscow now confronts the choice of either accepting a greatly diminished share of the Chinese arms market or agreeing to sell even more advanced weapons to Beijing. In addition to threatening existing force balances in East Asia, such transfers could further strengthen China's ability to compete for sales on third-party markets. Thus far, surging Russian arms sales to other countries have allowed Russian policy makers to accept the decreasing Chinese military purchases rather than risk the transfer of new technologies. Even so, the threat to Russian arms exports presented by the global recession may cause more Russians to seek short-term profits by allowing the sale to China of even their most advanced systems, which would make China and even more formidable competitor for sales to North Korea and other third-party markets.
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