Realists in international relations believe that small players have little room to maneuver in a world dominated by big powers, yet the North Korean tail has been wagging the big power dog for decades. The recent North Korea crisis offers several lessons about great power relations and East Asian security.

First of all, with the deterioration of security environment in Northeast Asia, no one emerges as the winner from the crisis, but China and the United States are the biggest losers.

In the eyes of many observers, Beijing has failed to play its expected role as a responsible power, putting its own interest above the global interest of nuclear nonproliferation. It is understood that if China tightens the screw on North Korea, the Pyongyang regime will quickly collapse, triggering a massive refugee stampede into China and leading to Korean reunification under U.S. influence. This is why China has balked at crippling the North Korean economy.